LONG ISLAND, NY — Health experts sounded the alarm Tuesday, saying people who are leaving New York City could be infecting those around them with the new coronavirus, including on Long Island, which has seen a surge in cases in recent days.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters at a news conference Tuesday that anyone who left the Big Apple over the last few days may have been exposed to the virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease. Furthermore, they should self-quarantine for 14 days.
“We are starting to see new cases across Long Island,” Birx said. “That suggests people have left the city. This will be very critical that those individuals self-quarantine in their homes over the next 14 days to make sure they don’t pass the virus to others based on the time that they left New York. So if they’re already four days out, then it’s just 10 more days.”
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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, later said New York is among a few “hot spots” in the country, along with California and Washington state. While other places still have a window open allowing them to significantly contain the spread, New York has moved on to mitigation strategies.
“It’s a very serious situation,” Fauci said of the dire circumstances facing New Yorkers. “They’ve suffered terribly through no fault of their own.”
Fauci said people are “understandably” trying to leave the city and head to places such as Florida and Long Island.
“It’s disturbing,” he said. “About 1 per 1,000 of these individuals are infected. That’s about 8 to 10 times more than in other areas. Which means when they go to another place, for their own safety, they’ve got to be careful. Monitor themselves. If they get sick, bring it to the attention of a physician. Get tested.”
Fauci said New Yorkers must take recommendations to self-quarantine for two weeks seriously. If not, it could cause more so-called “seeding points” for the rest of the country.
The briefing comes as the governor of Florida said he would expand his 14-day, self-quarantine order aimed at people fleeing New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, which have all implemented coronavirus lockdowns. The order now includes travelers who arrived in the Sunshine State up to three weeks ago.
The White House conference came hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo painted a dire picture of the situation his state faces. The peak number of cases of the virus is expected to be far higher than initially thought, he said. Furthermore, the wave that could crash on the health care system and overwhelm hospitals could be just two weeks away, far earlier than initially predicted.
The number of cases Tuesday climbed to more than 25,000 across the state. More than 3,200 are hospitalized, and about 750 were receiving intensive care treatment, he said.
“The change in circumstances is not encouraging,” he said, speaking from the Javits Convention Center.
Cuomo said as many as 140,000 hospital beds will be needed, noting the rate of spread is doubling every three days. The state currently has closer to 50,000 hospital beds.
Coronavirus in New York