State officials to implement travel restrictions in hopes of slowing spread of coronavirus

Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office

State officials are taking stronger precautions to stop the spread of the 2019-nCoV virus, implementing tougher travel restrictions mandated by the federal government and encouraging New Yorkers to get their flu shots.

As of Tuesday, February 4, 12 New Yorkers have now been tested for the novel coronavirus originating in Hubei Province, China in late 2019. As of February 2, no cases had been confirmed in the state, but one test result is still pending.

The first cases of the coronavirus were found over a month ago in the vicinity of Wuhan, a city in central China. The World Health Organization, as of February 4, is reporting 20,646 confirmed cases worldwide with 361 deaths in mainland China, one death in Hong Kong and another in the Philippines.

“Preparedness is always the best practice,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference on Sunday, “ At the same time, we have to keep this in perspective. There is no reason to panic.”

Australia, France, Canada, Thailand, Japan, and South Korea are a few of the 24 other countries with confirmed cases of the coronavirus. With peak tourism in China due to the recent Lunar New Year, travel bans and transportation precautions have begun.

The New York Port Authority is working with The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to screen travelers coming from China on non-stop flights at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

According to Executive Director of Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Rick Cotton, as of 5 p.m. on Sunday the state must follow federal procedures coinciding with Custom and Border Protection.

This includes a ban on non-U.S. citizens who have had contact with mainland China in the past 14 days from entering the country, and mandatory quarantine for U.S. citizens who have been to Hubei Province where Wuhan is the capital city.

“Non-stop flights from mainland China will only be permitted to land at seven airports, and John F. Kennedy is one of those airports,” Cotton said.

The city of Wuhan is undergoing the second week of a domestic and international travel ban by the Chinese government. As of Tuesday, Hubei Province reported more than half of coronavirus cases of 13,522 confirmed reports.

The U.S. Department of State issued a level-4 travel advisory to China on January 30, the highest warning level urging all travelers to not go. Airlines globally have temporarily suspended flights to China, including American Airlines, United, and Delta.

The effects of this virus are hitting more than just people, as global businesses like Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Disney parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong have closed amidst efforts to halt the rapid spread of this disease.

There are 11 confirmed cases in the U.S. in California, Arizona, Washington, Massachusetts, and Illinois. The Department of Health advised stricter safety measures for New York colleges and universities, home to a large population of international students and faculty.

“We encourage all New Yorkers to take normal precautions against sickness, such as regular hand washing and avoiding close contact with people who are sick,” said New York State Health Commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker.

The coronavirus produces common-cold like symptoms of a cough, sore throat, or fever. This is the first time this acute-respiratory disease has been found in humans and it is still unclear to the CDC how the virus spreads from person-to-person.

The flu season in New York state has yet to peak, with more than 70,000 cases of the flu reported to the Department of Health since October. Cuomo told New Yorkers on Thursday that taking precautions against the flu in return can serve as a protection against the coronavirus.

“I want to remind New Yorkers that it is much more likely that they will be exposed to the influenza virus, than the coronavirus,” Cuomo said.

While there is no vaccination against the virus, the Department of Health recommends that everyone over six-months-old get the influenza vaccination.

Those who are experiencing any of these symptoms and have recently traveled to any of the infected areas are advised to contact their health care provider to be tested for the virus. New Yorkers can now call 1-888-365-3065 with questions and concerns regarding travel and the coronavirus.