A lab worker at Northwell Health's Nassau County lab during a tour taken by the governor Sunday morning. Courtesy photo: Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Northwell Health has been authorized to test samples for novel coronavirus at its Nassau County laboratory, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last night.

“After days of advocating the FDA and the federal government to expand testing capacity for the novel coronavirus in New York State and working with Northwell and Wadsworth to expedite the process, we just received word that Northwell Laboratories has been authorized to test under Wadsworth’s emergency use authorization,” the governor said in a press release issued just before 7:30 p.m.

“Manual testing of 75 to 80 samples per day will begin at Northwell immediately, Cuomo said, “but we still need automated testing approved so we can perform thousands per day.”

The federal government must increase the testing capacity for the state lab and private labs by allowing for automated testing, the governor said.

The more positive people identified, the better able the state will be to control and contain the virus, Cuomo said.

The governor again criticized the federal government for being slow to grant the approvals.

“It’s one thing for the federal government not to have the testing capacity in place themselves – that was bad enough – but there’s no excuse for them not to be authorizing existing labs to do the work.”

In the week since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in New York on March 1, confirmed infections in the state rose to 105 as of Sunday morning.

Among the confirmed cases is a Suffolk County man in his early 40s who is hospitalized at Stony Brook/Southampton, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. He was reportedly transferred to Southampton from Stony Brook/Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport late last week.

Stony Brook Medicine declined to confirm specifics about the Suffolk case.

“The governor’s office has been the lead communications org for these patient announcements,” the director of media relations said in response to an inquiry.

The governor’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Infected man on East End has ‘nothing to do’ with Greenport schools at this time: school superintendent

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.

In daily briefings over the past week, the governor has repeatedly stressed that the facts of the novel coronavirus outbreak do not justify the amount of fear in the community. Eighty percent of the cases will “self-resolve,” the governor has said. The other 20% — the elderly and people with immune deficiencies or other underlying health conditions — run the risk of becoming critically ill, Cuomo said.

Symptoms of infection with the SARS-NoV-2 virus — the virus that causes COVID-19 — are similar to those of a common cold or seasonal influenza: respiratory systems, cough and fever.

Since there is limited testing capacity, testing is prioritized according to a protocol in place statewide: people who have traveled to countries affected by the virus; anyone who’s been exposed to them; people hospitalized with unexplained illness; and people whose health care professionals are concerned that they are infected.

Health officials urge people who have respiratory symptoms to self-isolate to prevent spread of the illness and to call their doctors for advice. Anyone with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical care promptly.

The virus spreads by droplets produced in sneezing and coughing. Health officials urge everyone to carry tissues with them and be sure to sneeze or cough into a tissue. The virus lives for a period of time on surfaces, so it can be picked up by your hands and introduced into your body by touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

Everyone should take precautions to avoid contracting or spreading the infection. These include: wash your hands thoroughly and frequently; use an alcohol-based sanitizer on your hands when soap and water are not immediately available; do not shake hands with others; do not touch your mouth, nose or eyes; and maintain a distance of at least three feet from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

People in a vulnerable subgroup should avoid crowded environments, particularly crowded enclosed spaces.

The U.S. State Department Sunday warned against travel by cruise ship.

“U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship,” the state department said in a message posted on its website. Passengers with plans to travel by cruise ship should contact their cruise line companies directly for further information and continue to monitor the Travel.state.gov website and see the latest information from the CDC.

As of Sunday, the virus had been confirmed in 101 countries, with more than 105,000 confirmed cases and more than 3,500 deaths globally, according to the world health organization.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.