Cuomo signs emergency funding bill to address COVID-19 crisis


Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office br> State health official and legislators join Governor Andrew Cuomo at a press conference on Tuesday, in the singing of a $40 million bill to aid in the state’s coronavirus response.

Governor announces goal for state to be able to test up to 1,000 tests per day statewide

State will institute new cleaning protocols at schools and in public transportation to help stop spread of virus

In the wake of the second positive coronavirus case in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill at a press conference on Tuesday morning for an emergency $40 million appropriation for the New York Department of Health to better respond to COVID-2019 cases as they come into state.

“I am telling you it is inevitable that this will continue to spread,” Cuomo said, “but the basic fact is 80 percent of the people who get it will self resolve and may not even know they had it.”

The FDA on Saturday approved the state’s coronavirus test – the first state test approved nationwide. And now Cuomo and Health Department officials want to ramp up testing capacity to 1,000 tests per day statewide for the virus. The Wadsworth Center, which is operated by the New York State Department of Health, will provide hospitals with instructions on how to replicate the state’s test, as well as help them purchase some of the equipment necessary to develop and validate the test.

“New York now being able to do the tests are how we found this case and how we can actually now begin testing for community spread,” said Cuomo on CNN’s News Day on Monday.

On Monday, March 2, a 50-year-old man from New Rochelle in Westchester County tested positive for the novel coronavirus. To the state’s knowledge, he only traveled to Miami prior to diagnosis, which is currently not an infected area. He does commute into Manhattan for work and how he travels is still under investigation.

The state’s first case came a few days prior from a 39-year-old woman from Manhattan who is a healthcare worker that had just returned from visiting Iran. At the press conference Cuomo said those on the same flight are being tested even though it is believed no one else has it. The infected woman is being treated at home and did not need to be hospitalized.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, represents the southern part of Westchester County where this second case is located. The infected man has an underlying respiratory illness and was initially taken to New York Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville and since then was moved to a Manhattan hospital.

“We are here for one purpose, and that is to make sure New Yorkers are getting the actions and reactions they need in order to be confident in their government,” said Stewart-Cousins whose daughter works in a hospital in Westchester County.

Last week Cuomo proposed this emergency management authorization and on Monday the Senate and Assembly were able to vote to pass it. The Governor told New Yorkers that this should give them confidence in the state in their ability to act swiftly during a time sensitive epidemic.

“You look at Washington and you have Washington fighting with themselves,” Cuomo said. “In New York you have the exact opposite.”

The U.S. Federal Reserve made an emergency cut to the interest rate, also on Tuesday morning, for the first time since 2008 to ease economic fallout from the spread of the virus.

Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker, left, listens to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, right, as she discusses the second reported case of the coronavirus coming from her District of New Rochelle in Westchester County.

The money from the emergency bill signed by Cuomo will go towards more test kits, purchasing masks and creating quarantine centers.

Cuomo also announced at the press conference that he will amend the Paid Sick leave budget proposal to protect the jobs of those being quarantined from termination and unpaid leave.

It has been two months since the first cases of the COVID-19 emerged from Wuhan, China. As of Tuesday, there are over 90,000 cases and over 3,000 deaths worldwide, and six deaths in the U.S. all from Washington.

By the end of the day SUNY schools will have to decide to either send students studying abroad in high risk areas back to the U.S., before any travel restrictions may begin, or let the programs continue. The list of private colleges and universities canceling and altering study abroad programs grow, such as NYU and Syracuse University.

Riverdale’s SAR Academy and High School have closed today where a child of the man with the second case of the coronavirus attends. Cuomo said that it will be up to schools to voluntarily decide to close as future cases emerge in communities.

The current death rate estimated by the CDC is double the flu rate of 1.4 percent, but those immune-compromised and senior citizens are at a higher risk.

There is still currently no vaccine for the virus, and New Yorkers are encouraged to continue everyday cold and flu preventative measures.