The first patient in New York was a 39-year-old health care worker who worked in Iran, where the virus has spread rapidly, before returning to America. The second patient, in contrast, has no history of travel to countries where the virus is spreading and has been classified as a case of community spread, meaning the source of his infection is unknown.
The patient, a Westchester resident in his 50s, works at the Lewis and Garbuz law firm in the Manhattan borough of New York City, health officials said. He’s is currently in severe condition at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center in Manhattan.
The man started showing symptoms of the new virus on Feb. 27 at a hospital in Westchester. Symptoms of the virus are similar to those with the flu and include fever and coughing.
The patient has two children with connections to the city, health officials said. His daughter attends SAR Acadamy and High School in the Bronx borough while his son attends Yeshiva University in Manhattan.
Officials at the Bronx school shut it down voluntarily. Yeshiva University said in a health alert that all classes on the Wilf Campus were canceled on March 4. The male student is in self-quarantine at home, it said. The man was last on campus on Feb. 27.
The male student was showing symptoms, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday, adding that both children were being tested for the virus.
The student tested positive for the virus, the university added on Wednesday.
Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, deputy commissioner for disease control at the city’s department of health, said the male patient first became ill on Feb. 22. He was admitted to the hospital in Westchester on Feb. 27 and was transferred to the Manhattan hospital on March 2.
The patient traveled to Miami, Florida, in early February but there appears to be no recent travel nexus to an infected area, de Blasio said.
The man has had “respiratory issues” for the past month, he said. The symptoms became “much more severe” in recent days.
“This appears to be an example of community spread,” he said. “We’re very concerned.”
The current crisis will unfold over the following months, not weeks, de Blasio said. He said he wanted to remind people that the manifestation of the virus for the vast majority of people would feel like what most feel while going through the flu or a cold.
“For a much smaller number of people, it can be a very serious threat,” he said.
Asked if the new patient traveled on the train or subway to work, de Blasio said any such travel wouldn’t matter because “casual contact” doesn’t spread the virus.
Disease detectives from the city’s Health Department are tracing people who had close contact with the male patient and his children, including people who worked closely with the man.
“Did you have regular, prolonged contact?” de Blasio told reporters.
Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot in a statement said that New Yorkers can limit the spread of COVID-19, the disease that the virus causes, by calling their doctor if they have symptoms like cough, fever, or shortness of breath.
Of the 10 people tested in the city, eight have tested negative and one tested positive. One test is currently pending.
The virus emerged in China late last year and has spread to 70 countries and territories, a federal official told lawmakers on Tuesday. There is no vaccine or proven treatment at this time, though some patients have recovered after rest and medical care.
The virus primarily spreads through close contact—defined as being within six feet—through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or spreads. The incubation period, or time until symptoms show, is estimated at 1 to 14 days.
Ways to avoid contracting the virus include avoiding sick people and frequently washing hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.