New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has deployed the National Guard to New Rochelle, a coronavirus hot spot just north of New York City.
“This is unique in the United States of America, we haven’t seen this anywhere else. Think about it, New Rochelle has double the cases of New York City, it’s true, it’s a phenomenon,” Cuomo told reporters Tuesday in announcing the deployment. Westchester County, where New Rochelle is located, had 108 COVID-19 cases out of the 173 confirmed infections across the state, according to state health department data Tuesday.
New York National Guard troops have already been dispatched to a health department command post in New Rochelle “to assist with the outbreak,” according to a slide he presented at a news briefing.
“We have moved from a containment strategy to more of a mitigation strategy,” NY state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said.
Cuomo stressed that the state isn’t restricting people from leaving the area. “You’re not containing people, it’s facilities. Somebody who lives in that containment area could be in this room today. There’s nothing you can do about that,” he said.
Cuomo said schools in New Rochelle will be closed for two weeks beginning Thursday, and officials are adding a satellite testing facility within the containment area to test residents for the virus. Northwell Health received the approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday night to run automated testing, Cuomo said.
“This will be a period of disruption for the local community. I understand that,” he added.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday he’s mobilizing the National Guard to establish a “containment area” in New Rochelle, the Westchester County suburb at the center of the state’s coronavirus outbreak.
Schools, businesses, synagogues, and other facilities within one mile of the city center will close for two weeks, beginning Thursday.
Officials are working out the details on what the Guard troops would do, and how many would be involved, a person with knowledge of the situation told Just the News.
“We still don’t know what the mission set is,” the source said. “The numbers are not that big. We’re looking at less than 1,000 people, and more like a company sized element.” A typical Army company consists of approximately 200 soldiers.
The state will activate volunteers from the Army and Air National Guard, the source said. “This is not an involuntary mobilization. We first will locate the soldiers and airmen.”
A spokesman for the New New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs referred a reporter to the governor’s office for information on what the mobilization would entail.
Gov. Cuomo’s office did not immediately return a phone call from Just the News.Northwell Health, New York state’s largest healthcare provider, will set up a satellite testing lab in the contained area.
Cuomo said that New Rochelle has “probably the largest cluster in the United States in these cases and is a significant issue for us.”
New York now reports 173 cases of the virus — 108 of which are in New Rochelle. So far, no deaths have been reported in the state, but 14 people have been hospitalized. Most of the patients are in high-risk categories – including the elderly and those with underlying medical causes.
“The numbers are going up unabated, and we do need a special public health strategy for New Rochelle,” Cuomo said.
Nearly 1,000 people in Westchester County are now quarantined. Many of them have recently attended large group gatherings, including a bat mitzvah, a funeral, and religious services. The 50-year-old attorney – “patient zero” at the heart of the New Rochelle spread of the virus – was in attendance at those events.
In 1972, during a smallpox outbreak in Kosovo and Belgrade, the government of Yugoslavia imposed strict martial law. The epidemic infected 175 people and killed 35. It was contained within two months.
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