Coronavirus in N.Y.: Second Case Sets Off Search for Others Exposed

The authorities confirmed on Tuesday a second case of coronavirus in New York, a man in his 50s who lives in Westchester County, just outside New York City, touching off an intense search by health investigators across the region to determine whether he had infected others.

The inquiry stretched from a hospital in Bronxville, N.Y., to a nearby high school, to both a law office and a college campus in Manhattan. The effort provided one of the first glimpses in New York of the kind of comprehensive efforts that health officials in countries across the world have mounted to stem to spread of the coronavirus.

New York health officials were tracking down doctors and nurses who treated the man in a hospital for days before he was confirmed to have the illness — and placing some in quarantine. And they were growing concerned that his son, a college student who officials believe lives in university housing, might be showing symptoms of the illness, too, raising fears of further transmission.

“I think we have to assume this contagion will grow,” George Latimer, the Westchester County executive, said at a news conference on Tuesday.

The man became ill on Feb. 22 and was admitted to a hospital in Westchester on Feb. 27., according to Dr. Demetre C. Daskalakis, the deputy commissioner for disease control at New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Officials acknowledged that the patient might have exposed doctors, nurses and others to the illness.

“We believe that a couple of the medical professionals have been quarantined,” Mr. Latimer said, adding that state health officials were examining “what exposure might exist” to the staff at that medical facility, the NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville.

The patient has since been transferred to a Manhattan hospital. He is a lawyer who lives in New Rochelle, N.Y., and works in Manhattan.

Two of the man’s children have links to New York City. One child attends a Jewish high school in the Bronx’s Riverdale neighborhood, and the school was closed on Tuesday as a precaution. The other, the college student, attends Yeshiva University but had not been on campus since Feb. 27, according to a statement released by the school. Additionally, the statement said, a student at the university’s law school was in self-quarantine after having contact with the law firm where the Westchester man works.

City officials said the stricken man’s son, the Yeshiva student, exhibited light symptoms that could be the coronavirus, or perhaps nothing at all.

The city’s disease detectives were trying to recreate the son’s movements to learn whom he had close contact with. They have also been in touch with the small Midtown law firm where the Westchester man works and they have spoken with the man’s close colleagues to evaluate their level of exposure, officials said.

Seven people who work at the firm have been deemed worthy of some level of monitoring — that can be as minor as a follow-up phone call, or it can involve a lengthy period of isolation to see if symptoms develop.

In Westchester County, the authorities were doing the same type of work, tracking whom he had close contact with.

On Tuesday, county officials told the man’s synagogue, Young Israel of New Rochelle, to halt its religious services for the foreseeable future. Citing guidance from state officials, the county also told congregants who attended Shabbat services on Feb. 22 or went to a funeral or a bat mitzvah on Feb. 23 to quarantine themselves, and said it would order a quarantine for those who would not do so.

A Westchester County spokeswoman said the man was at the synagogue on those dates.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said news of the second New York patient should not be a cause for alarm, reiterating that health officials had expected the virus to spread.

“Yes, people are going to get infected,” the governor said in an interview on Long Island News Radio, adding that “80 percent self-resolve,” referring to the estimated recovery rate for mild or asymptomatic cases.

Mr. Cuomo said the new patient had an underlying respiratory illness and was at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in the city. The mayor’s office said he was in “serious condition.”

“The real issue is how many people will get seriously ill,” Mr. Cuomo said. “How many people, God forbid, could lose their lives.”

There were crucial differences between the first case in New York, which came to light on Sunday, and the second.

The first coronavirus patient is a woman, 39, who began showing symptoms after returning home from Iran — the center of the outbreak in the Middle East. Health officials do not believe she was yet contagious when she flew home. And she came into contact with few people other than her husband and the driver who picked her up from the airport, health officials said.

With that first case, the source of infection — another country — was known, and the authorities were hopeful that she had not spread the virus to other New Yorkers.

But the second case appears different. The authorities do not know how the man became ill. Though he traveled to Miami in February, and had traveled to Israel as well in recent months, he is not known to have traveled to any areas with widespread transmission. For New York, this means the new coronavirus can no longer be thought of as an external threat that has yet to arrive.

Epidemiologists say that the increase in cases should come as little surprise, given how few people have been tested. In New York City, fewer than 20 people had been tested; across the state, only a few dozen people have.

The city’s public health laboratory confirmed the Westchester man’s case on its first day of being allowed to test for coronavirus, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said.

“With the results confirmed within a number of hours, we were immediately able to take next steps to stop the spread of this virus,” the mayor’s office said in a statement.

Testing procedures changed over the weekend, when the state’s public health laboratory in Albany, Wadsworth Center, began administering coronavirus tests after receiving permission from the federal government.

Previously, health authorities could not test patients locally and had to send samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, limiting the number of people tested.

Mr. Cuomo said the state was also monitoring two families in the Buffalo area who had recently traveled to Italy, one of the centers of Europe’s outbreaks.

On Monday night, acting on a proposal by the governor, the State Legislature approved a $40 million emergency aid package to help the State Department of Health hire additional staff and equipment to help track and fight the disease. Mr. Cuomo said he would sign that bill on Tuesday, and he expected that additional measures to mitigate the disease could be necessary.

“Quarantine is going to have to be done,” Mr. Cuomo said. “All of these things could very well happen.”

He added that the State University of New York system was deciding whether to ask students abroad to return home.Also on Tuesday, at least two schools in the New York City area were closed for “precautionary measures” — the SAR Academy and SAR High School in Riverdale, and Westchester Day School in Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Mr. Cuomo said during a news conference on Tuesday that one of the Westchester patient’s children attended SAR, which stands for Salanter Akiba Riverdale and describes itself as a Modern Orthodox Jewish day school.

The school, which has more than 1,400 students, sent an email to parents and faculty saying it was canceling classes on Tuesday because of a “suspected case of coronavirus.” Administrators urged parents and staff to remain calm and follow advised preventive measures.

Representatives for SAR declined to comment further, referring questions to the State Department of Health.

The Westchester Day School, a private Jewish day school, closed over an “abundance of caution,” said Rachel Goldman, the school’s executive director.

Ms. Goldman said that the school did not have any reason to believe that any of its students, faculty or staff had coronavirus, but that it had opted to close when it learned that a person in one of the school’s feeder communities was suspected of contracting the virus.

After reports of price gouging on supplies including face masks and hand sanitizers, State Senator Brad Hoylman, a Democrat, introduced a bill on Tuesday to penalize businesses that raised prices on medical supplies by more than 10 percent during a public health emergency.

“It’s said that after the storm come the vultures, and that’s exactly what could happen here if we don’t act now,” Mr. Hoylman, of Manhattan, said. “Profiting off fear of disease is unconscionable.”

Joseph Goldstein reported from New York, and Jesse McKinley from Albany, N.Y. Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Michael Gold, Jeffery C. Mays and Corey Kilgannon contributed reporting.

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