NY creates ‘containment zone’ in coronavirus-hit New Rochelle

National Guard to help clean surfaces, deliver food in heart of what appears to be the epicentre of state’s outbreak.

In this file photo taken on March 2, Commissioner of Health for New York State Howard Zucker, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speak during a news conference to discuss the first positive case of novel coronavirus or COVID-19 in New York State in New York City [File: Angela Weiss/AFP]

Schools, houses of worship and large gathering places will be shuttered for two weeks in a “containment area” centred in New York suburb of New Rochelle, the heart of what appears to be the nation’s biggest cluster of cases of the coronavirus, the state’s Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday.

The state will send National Guard troops to help clean surfaces and deliver food in the area, a one-mile-radius (1.6km) around a point near a synagogue connected to some existing cases, Cuomo said.

New Rochelle is a small city, located just north of New York City. 

The state and a private health system are setting up a testing facility in the area, schools within it will close for two weeks starting Friday and state and local officials are working to determine “large congregate facilities or gathering places” that also will shut down.

“It is a dramatic action, but it is the largest cluster of cases in the country,” he said at a news conference. “The numbers are going up unabated, and we do need a special public health strategy for New Rochelle.”

New Rochelle is at the centre of an outbreak of 108 cases in Westchester County, out of 173 statewide as of Tuesday. New York City has 36 cases, while its population is more than 100 times that of New Rochelle.

Around the state, patients are spread from Long Island to the Capital Region.

The new coronavirus that has sickened thousands across the globe causes only mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and can sometimes be fatal.

Officials announced Monday that New York’s newly diagnosed coronavirus patients included the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that runs the region’s major airports.

Source: AP