Northwell starts coronavirus testing as Nassau cases rise to 25

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Northwell starts coronavirus testing as Nassau cases rise to 25
Mama Soup delivered meals to NYU Winthrop workers on Monday. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

Nassau County has 25 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus, County Executive Laura Curran said Wednesday, less than a week after the first case was reported in the county.

The announcement came after Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency in New York, some local colleges canceled classes and Northwell Health stepped up its ability to test for the COVID-19 virus, which has spread around the world since originating in China.

In Nassau County, two cases were reported in the Town of North Hempstead and two in the Town of Oyster Bay. The other 21 were reported in the Town of Hempstead. Ten tests for the virus are pending. Six of the patients with confirmed cases were hospitalized.

One hundred fifty-three Nassau residents are under mandatory quarantine, while 79 are under precautionary quarantine.

At a news conference at the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Garden City, Curran did not give any details about those who were infected.

Some local school districts, while avoiding closing schools altogether, said some families with students have had contact with confirmed coronavirus patients.

THE FIRST CASE

An unnamed 42-year-old man who lives in Uniondale and works at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre was being treated for coronavirus at NYU Winthrop Medical Center in Mineola, it was announced on March 5 at a news conference held by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“What is going to happen is the number will continue to go up. It must because we are continuing to test more and more,” Cuomo said. “The more you test, the higher number you will have.”  

Curran, who was present at the governor’s second news conference that day, said the patient tested positive at Wadsworth Labs in Albany.

“When we got the positive result, we immediately took the next step and the Department of Health launched a contact investigation, where the patient is interviewed and we have investigators who go out, look at the man’s routine, at possible contacts, and if anyone is deemed at risk the Department of Health will contact this person,” Curran said. “This patient’s contacts have already been advised to isolate themselves.”

 Twenty-four additional cases in Nassau County have since been announced.  

NORTHWELL BEGINS TESTING

Northwell Health began manual testing for the virus on March 5, and received permission late Tuesday night to begin semiautomatic testing.

Through an emergency use authorization submitted Tuesday night to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Northwell’s laboratory now has approval to move immediately from manual testing to the lab’s semi-automated molecular diagnostic system.

Initially, Northwell Health Senior Vice President and Chief Public Relations Officer Terrence Lynam said that the manual testing limited the amount of patients who could be tested for the virus, “limiting testing to the severely ill, those who have had direct contact with confirmed or suspected patients, the elderly, those with immune diseases and pulmonary diseases, et cetera.”

With the authorization of semi-automatic testing, which greatly increases Northwell’s capabilities, the criteria will most likely be loosened, Lynam said.

Among the system’s proposed plans in the next few months is the implementation of a mobile hospital that can be placed outside emergency rooms to keep those suspected of carrying the virus.

Lynam also said that corporate employees at the Northwell offices in New Hyde Park were being given the option to work remotely.

Northwell’s hospitals would also limit those with respiratory conditions, those under 18, and those who had contact with suspected or confirmed patients from visitors’ hours.

Only two visitors will be allowed per visit, Lynam said.

Efforts to reach NYU Langone Health System and the Catholic Health Services of Long Island were unavailing.

SCHOOL DISTRICTS & COLLEGES

After a transportation contractor for the Glen Cove school district tested positive for the virus, the district closed on Tuesday, and reopened on Wednesday.

Additionally, Roslyn School Superintendent Allison Brown announced that individuals in one household within the school district’s community are under mandatory quarantine.

Brown said the individuals were in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. The individuals are asymptomatic, Brown said, and are being quarantined as a precautionary measure.

According to Brown, the Nassau County Department of Health did not require or recommend the closing of Roslyn schools.

“We will continue to collaborate and communicate with the Department of Health regarding this situation and we will adhere to guidance issued by the New York State Education Department and local, state and federal health authorities,” Brown said in a news release.

A family in the Westbury school district is under mandatory quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for the virus, according to a statement on the district’s website. 

Officials from Hofstra University in Hempstead announced that classes would be canceled for this week ahead of the university’s one-week spring break next week.

“We want to emphasize that this action is a precaution taken to provide peace of mind to students, faculty, staff, and families,” the university said. “There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 associated with the university.”

Nassau County Community College in Garden City closed Tuesday and Wednesday following a “confirmed positive association” with the virus, according to a statement posted to the school’s website.

Molloy College in Rockville Centre has suspended face-to-face instruction through March 28.

The New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury was suspending in-person classes from Wednesday to Friday, with spring break next week. On Monday, March 23, most suspended in-person classes will resume via remote learning environments, such as online and video-conferencing classes, according to a statement on the school’s website.

SUNY Old Westbury, which ordered students studying abroad in China and Italy to return to campus, canceled face-to-face instruction through the end of the week.

TOWN, COUNTY & STATE

Cuomo declared a state of emergency for New York on Saturday.

“As we continue to provide essential updates and encourage people to act upon the facts on coronavirus instead of the hype, I have officially done a declaration of emergency which gives us certain powers to help local health departments that are very stressed,” Cuomo said. “As the local health departments continue to monitor and quarantine people, we have a more expedited purchasing protocol to get them all the tools they need to contain the virus spread.”

Town of Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin said at a news conference Wednesday that the town would clean facilities frequented by senior citizens, as well as holding a pair of online town halls, to be held through Facebook Live.

“The first one will be this Sunday at noon,” Clavin said. “The second will be on March 20, at 2 p.m. A doctor will address questions regarding safety, and the idea is to keep everyone in the loop.”

Officials from the Town of North Hempstead announced the cancellation of senior exercise groups for the next 14 days, as well as the cancellation of various other activities over the next month.

“We are emphasizing that anyone who is exhibiting flu-like symptoms should not be frequenting any town facilities,” Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said in a news release. “If you are unwell, please stay home. This message has been extended to our employees and residents, alike.”

Curran said Tuesday that the county plans to fine any business found to be price gouging on necessary supplies.

“We’ve seen a dramatic rise in the price of cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer,” Curran said. “Both locally and online, sellers are trying to take advantage of the coronavirus outbreak and sell products that are hard to find on shelves at exorbitant prices. Not only are these products grossly overpriced, there is question whether they are authentic and safe. The County is partnering with Federal and State officials to put an end to this unsavory practice.”

So far, the county is investigating 15 cases of price gouging related to the coronavirus. A gas station in Great Neck was fined $5,000 for selling hand sanitizer at $10 a bottle, and a Manhasset variety store was fined $10,000.

The county urges those suspecting price gouging to contact the Department of Consumer Affairs at [email protected].

The Nassau County coronavirus hotline number is 516-227-9570

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1 COMMENT

  1. The more they test the more they find..and the more false positives too..the normal flue is similar..and very much higher death toll.

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