(Updated) Suffolk’s first confirmed coronavirus case is “a male in his early 40s who is currently hospitalized and in isolation,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in a statement this afternoon.
A spokesperson for the county executive would not disclose the location of the patient, but a source with knowledge of the situation said the man is in Stony Brook/Southampton Hospital. He was reportedly transferred to Southampton from Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport on Thursday and is being treated in the intensive care unit, according to the source.
Stony Brook University Hospital said all inquiries about coronavirus are referred to the governor’s office. The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Greenport Village officials said they had not been notified of the case prior to it being reported in the press.
Greenport Schools Superintendent David Gamberg said in a statement Sunday night he spoke to a Suffolk County Department of Health nurse affiliated with the epidemiological disease control unit and “she indicated that the person has nothing to do with the school at this time and they are continuing to investigate.” Gamberg said he will keep all staff and families updated with any new information that is shared with the school district in a timely manner.
County officials believe the man contracted the virus in the community, according to Bellone.
The county is working closely with the State Health Department and is investigating the patient’s contacts, the county executive said.
“While we continue to do all that we can to avoid a wide-spread outbreak, we are asking the public to do the same. If you are sick, stay home and contact your primary care physician to avoid spreading any illness to others,” Bellone said.
It’s not clear whether the Suffolk County case has any connection to the outbreak in Westchester — or any other confirmed cases in New York.
The Suffolk man became ill before 22 returning study-abroad students were brought to the Stony Brook/Southampton campus last night for a 14-day precautionary quarantine. None of the students being housed in Southampton tested positive for the disease. They were pre-screened and asymptomatic, according to Stony Brook University’s dean of students.
New York reported its first confirmed coronavirus case one week ago. Since last Sunday, the The total number of confirmed cases in New York jumped to 105, according to state officials.
The vast majority of New York’s confirmed cases are linked to an outbreak in Westchester County, where a New Rochelle resident who attended a large gathering at a synagogue there late last month apparently infected many other people. There were 82 confirmed cases in Westchester alone as of this morning, Cuomo said at a press briefing following a tour at Northwell Health’s laboratory in Nassau County.
Citing the growing outbreak in New York, both Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand are calling on the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “ramp up the capacity for testing” in New York.
“As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New York rises, the last thing our local hospitals should be doing is sitting on their hands awaiting federal results,” Schumer said.
“We are at a point in this public health crisis where we have to give New York hospitals the direct ability to ramp up testing, speed up results, and contain the spread,” he said.
The senators today wrote to the heads of the CDC and FDA making them to authorize certain private labs in New York to test for the virus and to allow automated testing.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today the approval of Northwell Health’s lab and approval of automated testing would increase New York’s testing capacity by at least 1,000 tests per day. He said he has been asking CDC to approve these measures on a daily basis.
“The current testing capacity is not sufficient to meet New York’s needs, and more must be done immediately,” Schumer and Gillibrand wrote in the letter. “CDC and FDA officials must work in lock step with New York health officials in order to collectively address this outbreak.”
Cuomo has argued that health officials should be testing as many people as possible to best contain and manage the outbreak.
Rep. Lee Zeldin criticized the state government’s communication about the returning students.
“This outbreak over the past several weeks has been a quickly evolving situation and now is not the time to play politics, and, in light of this, I implore our partners in government to improve communication,” Zeldin said in a statement.
“At a time like this fear can oftentimes outweigh facts, and we are even more susceptible to fear when the facts are hard to come by, especially with regards to many students being sent to our district from affected countries. Clear, open and constant communication is key to effectively combat this outbreak,” Zeldin said.
The governor has been stressing that many COVID-19 cases are not identified as such because their symptoms are the same as the cold and seasonal flu. Some people never even develop symptoms, according to the CDC. Approximately 80% of people infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 — called SARS-CoV-2 — “self-resolve” without medical intervention, the governor said.
Symptoms of the novel coronavirus infection mimic the common cold or seasonal flu, but respiratory symptoms can become severe, especially in the elderly population or people with immune deficiencies or underlying diseases, according to health officials. For more information, visit the N.Y. State Department of Health website or the CDC website.
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