Cuomo introduces containment plans to help New Rochelle with COVID-19 epidemic

Legislative Gazette photo by Emily Forman
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces a two-week, one-mile radius containment area, a satellite testing facility and national guard deployment for New Rochelle to help contain COVID-19.

With Westchester County reporting three times the number of COVID-19 cases than New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today that a containment plan will be enacted for the city of New Rochelle, the epicenter for the state’s coronavirus outbreak. A one-mile containment zone will be established for two weeks aimed at stopping further spread of the virus.

“This will be a period of disruption for those in that community,” Cuomo said, “but this can’t be a political decision; this is a public health decision.”

This containment period will start tomorrow, March 12 to March 25 in New Rochelle, where residents will still be free to travel through the area. However, large gatherings will be restricted in the one-mile area surrounding the heart of the outbreak at the Young Israel synagogue. This containment area also includes schools and community clubs. In the upcoming days, Cuomo will be releasing a full list of businesses and establishments that will be affected by the containment.

As a part of this plan, the National Guard will assist New Rochelle government and school officials with cleaning public spaces, delivering food and providing transportation to the impacted community. 

To limit travel to hospitals outside the area, Northwell Health, the largest healthcare provider in the state, was approved by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to implement a temporary satellite facility that will allow for testing. 

Updated case numbers as of March 10 show 108 positive cases in Westchester County, 36 in New York City and 19 in Nassau County. There are a smaller number of cases reported in Ulster, Rockland, Suffolk and Saratoga counties. 

“People look at these numbers as almost a statistically representative sample of what’s happening,” said Cuomo, “But that is not what this is; these are positive cases tested primarily from a universe of people connected with someone who tested positive.” 

Washington state still has the highest number of positive cases, but only by six more individuals as of March 10. New York state can be expected to pass Washington with positive cases in the next few days.

With still zero reported deaths from the virus in New York state, only 8 percent (or 14 individuals out of the 173 tested positive) of New York cases have resulted in hospitalization. Most people have been able to recover at home as they experience flu-like symptoms.

The 14 individuals who were hospitalized were all members of vulnerable groups. Vulnerable groups include older adults, and those with underlying medical conditions or compromised immune systems.

As of right now all schools in New York state must close for 24 hours if someone is tested positive with coronavirus to give time to allow for a full assessment and plan of action. Actions will be determined on a school by school basis.

The Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) coalition, which works to provide equal program opportunities across public schools in New York, responded to Cuomo’s plans to close The New Rochelle High School with concern about the economic and learning challenges that students of the New Rochelle School District will face. 

The fact that so many students lack access to technology and internet at home makes remote learning impossible during a crisis, but it also makes doing their homework challenging every night,” said Jasmine Gripper, the executive director of AQE.

However, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, and Senator Shelley Mayer, D-Yonkers, who both represent the city of New Rochelle, continue to stay positive but do acknowledge it is a difficult time for communities, school districts and vulnerable populations.

“We understand the importance of making decisions based upon science, and we will work with the Governor’s Office and other state agencies to ensure thorough communication of the Governor’s plan,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement. “We look forward to working with our local government partners, the staff at affected school districts, and all other affected entities to ensure that the impact of the containment zone is as modest as possible to local community life.”