- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 10, 2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday he is sending the National Guard to bolster the coronavirus response in a hard-hit suburb north of New York City, signaling a new front in the domestic response.

Guard members will work in a containment circle around a key area of transmission in New Rochelle, where 100 cases have been diagnosed. They will be delivering food to homes and cleaning public spaces as scientists try to figure out how long the virus can live on hard surfaces.

“New Rochelle is a particular problem,” said Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat. “The numbers are going up unabated, and we do need a special public health strategy for New Rochelle.”

The containment area is a 1-mile circumference around a synagogue considered to be the hot spot of transmission.

Starting Thursday, public and private schools within the circle will be closed for two weeks for cleaning. Synagogues, the Boys & Girls Club and other facilities that hold large gatherings will be directed to shut down. Grocery stores and delis may stay open.

The incubation period for the coronavirus is 14 days, so the pause in public gatherings could interrupt transmission and help disease fighters contain cases in the zone.

SEE ALSO: Trump makes surprise visit to Congress, seeks package to boost economy

“This will be a period of disruption for the local community. I understand that,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Local shop owners don’t like the disruption. Nobody does. Local politicians don’t like the disruption. I get it. This can’t be a political decision. This is a public health decision.”

The governor said he decided to follow the recommendations of his scientific advisers, namely state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.

Mr. Cuomo’s approach contrasted with that of President Trump, who has boasted about his knack for science and has focused on what has worked so far rather than outlining measures to corral people.

“We’ve also had some very good updates on the virus. That’s working out very smoothly. Tremendous people. It’s a tremendous task force. They have done a great job — not a good job, a great job,” the president said after meeting with members of Congress.

Mr. Trump also highlighted positive trends abroad, as China reports fewer new cases at the epicenter in Hubei province.

The virus, which causes an illness known as COVID-19, was discovered in Wuhan, China, in December. It has caused havoc around the globe, with more than 7,500 cases in South Korea, more than 8,000 in Iran, and more than 10,000 infections and over 600 deaths in Italy.

Italian authorities ordered a nationwide lockdown that limits travel to emergencies or trips for work or food. The measure is unprecedented for a free society. While cafes from Milan to Rome are reportedly clearing out, the stringent measures have created lengthy lines at grocery stores.

The U.S. is approaching 1,000 cases in more than 30 states, with 28 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director for infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said he is not prepared to tell all communities to close schools as they are doing in part of New Rochelle because the risk depends on the level of spread within the community.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence wouldn’t say whether the Trump-Pence campaign would cancel any rallies as election season heats up. Democratic candidates Bernard Sanders and Joseph R. Biden scrapped events in Ohio, marking the first apparent instances of the coronavirus affecting the 2020 campaign schedule.

“That’ll be a decision that’s made literally on a day-to-day basis,” Mr. Pence said.

A Sanders campaign spokesman said that “out of concern for public health and safety,” they canceled a planned rally in Cleveland.

Mr. Biden’s team followed shortly afterward with a similar announcement.

“We will continue to consult with public health officials and public health guidance and make announcements about future events,” said Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager and communications director.

In Louisiana, the Archdiocese of New Orleans decided to stop offering Holy Communion wine in a chalice during services at all congregations, according to officials, joining many other dioceses across the country.

A representative for the archdiocese made the announcement Tuesday after the state confirmed Louisiana’s first presumptive positive COVID-19 case.

“Since there is a presumptive case of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in the New Orleans area, we must act out of an abundance of caution,” Archbishop Gregory Aymond said in a statement.

Officials in Oakland, California, continued to offload passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship, which has recorded more than 20 infections. A passenger who took the ship on an earlier leg to Mexico died in California.

Health and Human Secretary Alex Azar said the goal was to get all Californians off the ship, plus British citizens who would be flown home.

He said passengers from outside of California might have begun leaving the ship late Tuesday to go to military bases in Texas and Georgia.

New York state, meanwhile, has more than 170 cases, almost as many as Washington state, which is considered the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S.

Washington has recorded 22 deaths because of a large number of infections in seniors, particularly a nursing home in Kirkland.

The Department of Veterans Affairs said it is adopting a “no visitors” policy to limit exposure to older veterans at more than 130 nursing homes under its purview.

“The residents are predominantly older, and many have multiple complex health conditions, making them particularly vulnerable to infection,” the agency said in a statement.

Exceptions will be made for cases in which a resident is near death in a hospice unit.

In New York, Mr. Cuomo said 14 cases have required hospitalization and nobody in the state has died. Many of the residents who have been infected are not in high-risk categories.

The governor noted that Westchester County has more than 100 cases, compared with 36 in New York City, though one place sticks out.

“It’s not Westchester County. It’s New Rochelle,” Mr. Cuomo said. “New Rochelle at this point is probably the largest cluster in the United States of these cases. It is a significant issue for us.”

Besides lockdown measures at gathering sites, the state is partnering with Northwell Health to set up a satellite testing facility in New Rochelle.

The number of U.S. infections is likely to grow as the Trump administration scrambles to dispatch test kits to every corner of the country.

Mr. Pence said 1 million tests have been sent out and 4 more million will be available by the end of the week.

“The testing has gone very well. And when people need a test, they can get a test,” Mr. Trump said. “When the professionals need a test, when they need tests for people, they can get the test. It’s gone really well.”

Mr. Trump has been keeping a busy schedule and recently traveled to Georgia and Florida. At both places, he crossed paths with Republican congressmen who inadvertently interacted with an infected person at the Conservative Political Action Conference last month in Maryland.

Mr. Trump said he is willing to be tested but doesn’t see a pressing need to do it.

“I don’t think it’s a big deal. I would do it. I don’t feel any reason. I feel extremely good. I feel very good. But I guess it’s not a big deal to get tested, and it’s something I would do,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump said the White House doctor told him there was no reason to be tested.

For those who do seek testing, major health insurers told Mr. Trump they will cover it for beneficiaries and waive out-of-pocket costs.

“All the insurance companies here today have agreed to waive all co-pays for coronavirus testing and extend coverage for coronavirus treatment in all their benefit plans,” Mr. Pence said at a White House meeting with Mr. Trump and the insurance companies.

Mr. Pence said the assembled insurers — UnitedHealth, Humana and Cigna, among others — collectively insure nearly 240 million Americans through private plans or participation in the Medicaid and Medicare programs.

⦁ David Sherfinski and James Varney contributed to this report.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide

Sponsored Stories