Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency on Saturday as the number of coronavirus cases in New York rose to 89, which include a Queens driver who worked for Uber and two unexplained positive tests of patients 200 miles to the north.
Moving on multiple fronts to curb the spread of the virus, the governor said the state of emergency would allow New York’s government to respond faster by lifting regulations.
The governor’s announcement came as concerns about the outbreak grew in New York City, which has 12 confirmed cases, up from six that were disclosed as of Friday. The epicenter in New York state continues to be just north of the city, in Westchester County, where there are 70 cases in total.
These cases were mostly, if not all, related to a cluster in Westchester that first came to authorities’ attention after a New Rochelle resident, a 50-year-old lawyer, was confirmed as New York’s second coronavirus patient.
State officials said they were testing dozens of mouth and nasal swabs from people who may have been exposed to the lawyer, who has been hospitalized but whose condition is said to be improving. Technicians are working around the clock at private and public laboratories, including a major site near the state Capitol.
In the United States, more than 380 cases of the virus have been confirmed, and at least 19 people have died, according to a New York Times database.
Despite the spread in the state and the mounting toll of the virus, which has killed more than 3,500 people worldwide, Cuomo sought to try to calm the public during a news conference in Albany.
“You know what’s worse than the virus — the anxiety,” Cuomo said, noting that most patients would suffer mild or no symptoms.
The declaration of emergency will allow the state to speed up the purchasing of supplies and the hiring of workers to assist local health departments that have been handling the monitoring of thousands of self-quarantined patients, Cuomo said.
“Somebody has to go knock on their door, once a day,” he said. “This is labor intensive.”
The declaration would also allow officials to skirt purchasing regulations, if necessary, he said.
Still, there were signs that the outbreak was spreading, including a pair of patients in Saratoga County, north of Albany — the first such confirmed cases outside of the New York City region.
On Friday night, the Uber driver from Queens tested positive, and the case prompted more than 40 doctors, nurses and other workers at a hospital there to go into voluntary self-isolation over fears that they might have been exposed to the coronavirus, officials said on Saturday.
The man, 33, walked into St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in the Far Rockaway section of Queens on Tuesday and reported flulike symptoms. He went home and returned later when his symptoms worsened, an official said.
Dozens of workers at the hospital are now being tested, officials said.
“Obviously, 40 people are out,” said Councilman Donovan Richards Jr., who represents Far Rockaway. “The hospital will need to replace those people temporarily. They will need money to do that. They need supplies. We need to keep the health care up and running.”
Tom Melillo, a hospital spokesman, said the patient remained in quarantine at the hospital on Saturday, and that hospital officials were monitoring everyone who might have been exposed to the patient.