Effects of the coronavirus are moving closer to the local area.
On Tuesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law a $40 million emergency management authorization for New York State’s novel coronavirus response. This appropriation will allow the state to hire additional staff and procure equipment and any other resources necessary to respond to the evolving situation.
Cuomo also said there is a second confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in New York — a 50-year old man in Westchester who is hospitalized and in serious condition.
In the meantime, The Buffalo News reported 12 members of two Buffalo-area families are being quarantined after returning from Italy for possible coronavirus infections. The individuals are symptomatic and being tested, the News reported.
State Sen. George Borrello opposed Cuomo’s legislation, calling it a “power grab.”
“(Monday) night, the State Legislature was presented with a piece of emergency legislation that sought to capitalize on the coronavirus as an excuse to inappropriately and excessively expand the powers of the governor,” Borrello said in a statement.
“As is often the case in Albany, this egregious power grab was strategically tied to $40 million in funding for coronavirus preparations. While I fully supported the funding appropriation, I could not support handing the governor the power to act unilaterally during any event he deems an ’emergency.’ The bill would have given him sweeping and sole authority to suspend and alter any state or local law or rule and issue directives. It unnecessarily added language to allow the governor to declare a wide spectrum of events as ‘disasters’ — even blight — giving him ultimate authority.
“During my time as County Executive, we had several crises arise that required quick action by our legislature to approve emergency appropriations. Those occasions were never used as opportunities to expand the power of the executive and diminish the role of lawmakers. Had I attempted such a move, my colleagues would have voted ‘no’ and rightly so. Many of my fellow legislators in both the Senate and Assembly, and from both sides of the aisle, expressed serious concerns with the overreach in this bill. That is why I could not, in good conscious, vote in favor of this measure.”
The governor also announced he will amend his Paid Sick Leave budget proposal to specifically protect from termination people who are required to stay home from work because they are being isolated or quarantined as a result of the novel coronavirus.
The governor further announced SUNY institutions will have students who are in study abroad programs in countries with high prevalence of novel coronavirus come home and will review all study abroad programs ahead of potential expanded travel restrictions by the federal government.
“As the situation with the novel coronavirus continues to evolve, I want the people of New York State to know that their government is doing everything possible to confront and contain it,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Last week I proposed a $40 million emergency management authorization to ensure New York State has the resources necessary to most effectively respond. (Monday) night, the legislature voted to pass this measure, and I applaud them for their swift action that demonstrates their appreciation of the complexity of this situation and their commitment to responsive measures. While New York’s overall risk level remains low, these actions will provide our doctors, hospitals and first responders with the tools they need to ensure the health and safety of all New Yorkers, and to prepare for any possible scenario.”
Monday, Cuomo announced the world-renowned Wadsworth Center — the research-intensive public health laboratory housed within the State Department of Health — is partnering with hospitals to expand surge testing capacity to 1,000 tests per day statewide for the novel coronavirus. The Wadsworth Center will provide these 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.
The governor also announced the state will institute a new cleaning protocol at schools and in the public transportation system to help stop any potential spread of the virus.
These announcements follow the Food and Drug Administration’s approval over the weekend for the Wadsworth Center to begin tests for the novel Coronavirus — the first non-CDC test that has been given approval by the FDA. The first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in New York, a woman in her thirties, was done through the State’s Wadsworth testing lab.
On Saturday, New York State received notification that the FDA approved Wadsworth lab’s Emergency Use Application — EUA — request to begin novel coronavirus testing using the test that the State developed and validated at the Wadsworth Center. This test will allow the state to perform testing more rapidly than sending to the CDC and to respond expeditiously when and if there is a positive case to better protect the public health of New Yorkers. Upon receipt of lab specimens, the Wadsworth Center can complete testing within three to five hours.
While there is currently no vaccine for the novel coronavirus, everyday preventative actions can help stop the spread of this and other respiratory viruses:
¯ Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
¯ Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
¯ Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
¯ Stay home when you are sick.
¯ Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
¯ Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
¯ Individuals who are experiencing symptoms and may have traveled to areas of concern or have been in contact with somebody who has traveled to these areas should call ahead to their healthcare provider before presenting for treatment.