New York’s First Coronavirus Patient Is a Health Care Worker, Governor Says

March 2, 2020 Updated: March 2, 2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state’s first COVID-19 coronavirus case is a female 39-year-old health care worker who had worked in Iran before she returned to the United States last week.

The woman, he added, didn’t take any public transportation and wasn’t believed to have been contagious while flying back to New York. However, some infectious disease experts and federal health officials have said they believe the virus can be spread without a patient showing any symptoms.

“We will have community spread,” Cuomo told reporters on Monday alongside New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Dr. Ken Davis of Mount Sinai Health just hours after the state confirmed the case. “That is inevitable.”

When she arrived in New York City, the unidentified patient took a private car back to her home, according to the governor. The woman then started developing respiratory symptoms associated with COVID-19, which is believed to have emerged in mainland China in late 2019.

What’s more, the governor and mayor didn’t elaborate on where in the five New York City boroughs she lives or the airport she used. Her husband, who is also a health care worker, was tested for the new coronavirus and is under self-quarantine.

“We’re assuming that he’s positive,” Cuomo said, adding that he is undergoing the same protocol. Her “condition is mild,” she wasn’t hospitalized, and she is at home with her husband, the governor said.

New York
People wear surgical masks in fear of the coronavirus in Flushing, a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens on Feb. 3, 2020. (Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images)

The governor said that state health officials are contacting other people who were on the same flight with the woman as well as the driver of the private car service that she used. They will also trace anyone who may have had contact with her.

“She was not on any public transportation, she has been in her home virtually isolated and she is isolated once again,” Cuomo told CNN earlier in the day. “So in this case, because of those circumstances—because of her knowledge—she acted in a textbook way.”

Federal officials approved New York State to perform its own coronavirus testing, said Cuomo, who also asked the state legislature for $40 million to deal with the outbreak. The test was confirmed by the Wadsworth Lab in Albany, the capital.

Cuomo attempted to assuage fears that New Yorkers might have after the state’s first confirmed case, saying that he would tell residents the same thing he told his daughter: “It’s deep breath time.” He said that the fatality rate for COVID-19 isn’t too high and noted that a small percentage of people have died, adding that “senior citizens” and people with “underlying illness” are vulnerable. “Children do not appear to be vulnerable to this virus,” he said.

De Blasio said in the press conference “this is a situation that can be managed … New Yorkers do not scare easily.”

New York’s first case comes as Florida and Rhode Island both reported their first cases on Sunday. Both Washington state, which reported the first U.S. death over the weekend from the virus, and Florida both declared public health emergencies over the COVID-19 outbreak.