Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced at a briefing on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in midtown Manhattan that the Wadsworth Center–a research-intensive public health laboratory located inside the State Department of Health–is partnering with hospitals to expand testing capacity to 1,000 tests a day statewide. Upon receipt of lab specimens, the Wadsworth Center can complete testing within three to five hours. The announcement followed Sunday’s news that one person’s test in New York came back with positive results.
Cuomo said the test will allow the state to perform testing more quickly than sending tests to the CDC and to respond more rapidly. Testing at the Wadsworth Center began Saturday evening. Wadsworth is currently able to do 200 tests per day, and the State Department of Health is working to expand capacity through expanded lab hours and the hiring additional staff.
Cuomo announced the institution of a new cleaning protocol for schools, public transportation, and elsewhere to contain any potential spread. In addition, 1,200 hospital beds have currently been identified as available should the need arise, without interfering with other health care demands. “This isn’t our first rodeo–we are fully coordinated, we are fully mobilized, and we are fully prepared to deal with the situation as it develops.”
The governor said he is requesting a $40 million emergency management authorization for the New York State Department of Health (DOH). The money would be used to hire staff and purchase equipment and any other necessary resources. Also in the works is proposed legislation to clarify authority for the governor to take certain statewide actions and measures in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak as needed. The DOH is also getting local health departments and hospitals statewide together to review protocols, best practices, and procedures to ensure they are prepared.
Cuomo said in a statement Sunday:
There is no reason for undue anxiety–the general risk remains low in New York. We are diligently managing this situation and will continue to provide information as it becomes available. From day one. It was a big break when the federal government allowed us to do our own testing because now we are actually in control of the systems ourselves. And as New Yorkers we like control. When you look at the reality here, about 80 percent of the people who are infected with the coronavirus self-resolve. They have symptoms. The symptoms are similar to what you would have with the normal flu. And for most people, they treat themselves, over 80 percent, and the virus resolves that way. About 20 percent get ill.
Mayor de Blasio said in a press statement Sunday:
From the beginning, we have said it was a matter of when, not if there would be a positive case of coronavirus in New York. Now our first case has been confirmed. The patient contracted the virus during recent travel and is isolated in her home under close monitoring. Our health authorities have been in a state of high alert for weeks, and are fully prepared to respond. We will continue to ensure New Yorkers have the facts and resources they need to protect themselves.
Health Commissioner Barbot added, “Despite this development, New Yorkers remain at low risk for contracting COVID-19. As we confront this emerging outbreak, we need to separate facts from fear, and guard against stigma and panic.”
New Yorkers can call the state hotline at 1-888-364-3065, where experts can answer questions regarding the novel coronavirus. In addition, the Department has a dedicated website for use as a resource, including updated information for New Yorkers.
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