(Natural News) It may not have any COVID-19 cases yet, but New York City, which is home to over 19 million people, is now on high alert for possible outbreaks of the new coronavirus.
This comes after the New York State Health Department confirmed that 700 people have voluntarily quarantined themselves after returning to the state from areas affected by the recent coronavirus outbreak. According to local health officials, none of the 700 had manifested any of the symptoms related to the disease.
“We did have a number of people who matched that definition and they consistently went and got health care quickly,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a press conference. “They were therefore isolated from everyone else. The testing happened quickly and the testing came back negative.”
Despite this, NYC agencies are showing high vigilance to prevent the disease from even gaining a foothold.
“No one should take this lightly,” de Blasio said in an interview with Fox New York, adding that anyone who is manifesting flu-like symptoms, or had any physical contact with people who may have traveled to affected countries, must go and see a doctor immediately. (Related: Atlanta airport GM says 200 passengers showed signs of Wuhan coronavirus and were told to “self-quarantine at home”.)
De Blasio also added that health officials have distributed 1.5 million masks in New York and that he is seeking federal assistance for at least 300,000 more masks for the city, as well as other protective gear.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, meanwhile, said in a separate statement that the state would set aside some $40 million to fight the virus, as well as plan for possible quarantines at homes, hospitals and even hotels.
In addition to the $40 million from the Legislature, Cuomo added that he would ask federal authorities for permission to test patient samples in a laboratory in New York, rather than wait several days for results from CDC laboratories in Atlanta, because New York is “the front door internationally” for many travelers.
“No one should be surprised when we have positive cases,” he added.
Echoing Cuomo’s sentiment, de Blasio also urged the CDC not just to expand testing of people arriving from high-risk areas outside of China – such as Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand – but also give local health departments the ability to test for the virus on their own.
“Right now, it is too narrowly focused on travelers coming out of China,” de Blasio said. “We think that needs to be expanded to any traveler coming from a country that’s seen a major surge in cases. We think that needs to be expanded to any country that now has a travel warning attached to it by the United States government,” he added.
De Blasio also mentioned that the city has made 1,200 hospital beds available for anyone suspected of being infected with the disease.
According to the CDC, there are currently 15 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the USA. In addition, the CDC has aired a statement suggesting that a pandemic is “likely.”
“It’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when and how many people will be infected,” CDC principal deputy director, Anne Schuchat, said.
As of press time, COVID-19 has infected 80,998 and killed 2,763 in China alone, as reported by Natural News.
How does self-quarantining work?
According to Jill Montag, a spokeswoman for the state Health Department, people who may have traveled to high-risk areas are asked to voluntarily self-isolate for 14 days after their last potential exposure as per CDC guidelines that are based on the virus’ incubation period.
Montag said that local health departments will monitor the individuals for signs and symptoms each day, during the quarantine period.
The signs and symptoms to look out for include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. When the infection progresses, it can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
According to the CDC, while there is currently no specific treatment for COVID-19, those infected should receive supportive care to help relieve their symptoms. Serious cases would need additional care in order to support vital organ functions.
Get the latest news on the dreaded coronavirus outbreak at Outbreak.news.