- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2020

NEW YORK (AP) - New York state’s coronavirus caseload doubled overnight to 22, as the mayor of the nation’s largest city implored the federal government Thursday to send more test kits for the new virus.

The newly diagnosed cases include two critically ill, hospitalized patients in New York City and a hospitalized man in Long Island’s Nassau County, officials said.

The other positive tests were in people with mild symptoms - or none at all - in Westchester County, where a cluster of cases emerged earlier in the week and a 50-year-old lawyer at the center of it has been hospitalized since last week. Officials said Thursday that he was improving.

“The number will continue to go up” as testing increases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned, adding that he expected “significant” spread through the public.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the two newly diagnosed patients in New York City, a man in his 40s and a woman in her 80s, both have underlying medical problems that may have intensified their symptoms.



Neither had traveled to virus hotspots or had ties to known cases in the area, adding to indications the virus is spreading locally.

“Our level of concern is rising, for sure,” de Blasio said. “You have to assume it could be anywhere in the city, so we’re going to work on an assumption of intense vigilance.”

Cuomo said the Long Island patient, a 42-year-old man, also has underlying medical problems. He’s not in intensive care, and his condition is improving, officials said.

Meanwhile, officials in neighboring New Jersey announced the state’s first two coronavirus cases, with both patients hospitalized. One is a health care worker in his 30s who works in New York City and splits time between homes there and in New Jersey, officials said. It’s not clear where he works or in what capacity. Officials said he was faring well in a northern New Jersey hospital.

Worldwide, the virus has infected nearly 98,000 people and killed over 3,300 as of Thursday. New York officials have sought to emphasize that most cases are mild enough not to require hospitalization.

Still, cases of the new virus - and concerns about potential ones - have already prompted officials to ask thousands of people in recent weeks to quarantine themselves. A few schools and college campuses have closed for cleaning. Suburban Rockland County canceled a youth event planned for Sunday.

Gap Inc. closed its New York office and is asking employees to work from home “until further notice” after learning that one of its employees was confirmed to have the new virus, the company said. The San Francisco-based clothing chain told The Associated Press in an email that the employee wasn’t in the office Thursday and is currently recovering at home. It wasn’t immediately clear how the employee contracted the virus and whether it was a new case.

And a Manhattan federal judge switched courtrooms Thursday after learning that a person dismissed from a pool of prospective jurors earlier this week was later told to self-quarantine. The person hasn’t tested positive for the virus but had been at a house of worship on the same day as someone who did test positive, U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan said.

De Blasio, a Democrat, urged the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to supply New York with more test kits and to speed the approval of tests that private companies may be developing.

“Our single greatest challenge is the lack of fast federal action to increase testing capacity,” he said. “Without that, we cannot beat this epidemic back.”

After an initial batch of test kits that the CDC sent to state and big city public health labs proved largely faulty last month, New York City and state officials pressed for permission to run their own tests.

The state got approval Saturday to run its own version of the test. Cuomo, a Democrat, said Thursday the state is now able to run about 100 to 200 tests a day and is now working with other laboratories to boost testing capacity.

New York City, meanwhile, got a new batch of CDC test kits. De Blasio said Thursday that the city ultimately wants the capacity to do hundreds of tests per day or more and needs federal help to get there.

___

Tarinelli reported from Albany. Associated Press writers Karen Matthews and Larry Neumeister in New York; David Porter in Fort Lee, New Jersey; and Michael Catalini in Ewing, New Jersey, also contributed.

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