Story by Sara Paul
As fears mount in the recent reports of the spread of the coronavirus, Warwick’s hospital, schools, businesses, political officials and residents have weighed in on what is being called an “outbreak” by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The virus is “SARS-CoV-2,” and the disease it causes is the “coronavirus disease 2019” (COVID-19), according to the CDC.
As of Sun., Mar. 8, there were more than 100,000 people infected with the virus worldwide, with 106 confirmed cases in New York State. COVID-19 has claimed more than 3,400 deaths worldwide, 14 of which were in the United States. On the morning of Thurs., Mar. 12, the Orange County Health Department was notified of the first positive test result of an Orange County resident for Coronavirus (COVID-19). The person is presently hospitalized and isolated.
Orange County Health Commissioner Dr. Irina Gelman issued the following statement: “When a positive test occurs, the healthcare provider creates a line list. What that means is a list is created of all persons the patient was in contact with. The County Health Department then contacts people on that list to notify them of the potential exposure. Such persons are assessed using clinical criteria to determine their symptoms and the potential need for testing. We have been preparing for this prospect for several weeks and are in regular contact with our healthcare providers. I encourage people with fever, cough, shortness of breath or other signs of illness to contact their healthcare provider before appearing at their doctor’s office. This minimizes chance of more unnecessary exposure.”
There are also numerous cases in Westchester County, and several others throughout surrounding upstate counties in New York. Warwick is still on the perimeter of danger, though the effects of this international concern are apparent in varying degrees all over town.
Schools Acting Responsibly
On Mon., Mar. 9, Warwick Valley Central School District Superintendent Dr. David Leach sent out an e-mail stating that, “Today, the District was informed that a teacher at Sanfordville Elementary School has been in contact with a family member who was in direct contact with a novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) infected person (i.e., Contact of Contact). While the New York State and The Orange County Health Department did not advise or suggest the District take any action, out of an abundance of caution, the teacher will remain out of work for at least 14 days. The teacher did not report to work today. It is important to note that neither the teacher nor his/her relative have shown signs of illness. If the person/contact remains asymptomatic, those who have had ‘contact with a contact’ such as family members, neighbors and friends are not usually subject to quarantine. ‘Contacts of Contacts’ are considered low risk. Regardless, this evening the administration called all of the parents of children who work directly with the teacher.”
“I want to stress that we are not aware of any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Warwick. The uncertainty of this situation can be stressful for us all. By supporting one another, our school community will successfully navigate whatever lies ahead,” Leach said.
Chinese Food Restaurants Sales Down
Several local Chinese food restaurants have reported that sales are the lowest they have seen in over a decade. Though restaurant owners do not wish to comment on the record, it was confirmed that they are feeling the negative effects of the recent public panic.
In a recent Letter to the Editor in The Warwick Valley Dispatch, Warwick resident Katie O’Leary wrote, “… we are faced with an epidemic of racism towards Asians, specifically of Chinese descent… It is apparent that racism has become more contagious than the coronavirus.”
Comments from Residents
Reports seem to indicate that the virus is more dangerous for the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, while young children are generally safe.
Village of Warwick resident George Arnott, 78, just returned from an 11-day cruise to the Caribbean on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship leaving from and returning to New York City.
Arnott reports that, “There were requests always to wash our hands before entering the dining rooms and information disseminated to all about precautions about the virus. There were also questions asked before boarding the ship, such as if we have shown any of the symptoms associated with the virus and had anyone traveled to China recently.”
Arnott observed, “There were no facial masks worn by any passengers or crew, but there was talk among the passengers about the virus. At the New York City Port Authority terminal many people were wearing the masks.”
The retired Warwick Police Department Sergeant had an enjoyable trip, despite the constant cautions, and was not really concerned until returning to the media buzz he had been free from on the calm Caribbean waters.
“I wasn’t alarmed until hearing the recommendations from the head of the CDC warning older passengers not to board any cruise ships due to age and prior complications of respiratory or heart ailments,” Arnott stated.
Back on dry land in Warwick, some parents say there are taking precautions, while also being balanced in their actions. Pine Island resident and mother of two, Susan McCosker, admits that the virus outbreak is very much on her mind.
“I’m not planning on taking a cruise or eating from a salad bar anytime soon, but I’m still living my life,” said McCosker. “In all seriousness, I am a little concerned about health issues, but just as concerned about how this will affect the economy.”
Hospitals Remain Vigilant
Warwick hospital administrators say they are on top of the situation.
St. Anthony Community Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), issued the following statement: “A safe and effective care environment is our highest priority, and St. Anthony Community Hospital and all WMCHealth hospitals and medical practices have undertaken the necessary steps to protect our patients, visitors and workforce as public concerns about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) grow. All WMCHealth hospitals and medical practices have long-standing and the most up-to-date protocols in place to respond to infectious diseases. These protocols include, but are not limited to, strict adherence to care guidelines, protective attire and the use of negative-pressure environments to contain airborne pathogens. We routinely train our staff in these protocols and protocol adherence is monitored by infection prevention specialists. As an added safety precaution, multilingual signs are present at key hospital entry points asking patients and visitors to share their potential for exposures, such as recent travel.”
NYS Gov’t Officials Monitoring Situation
Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus joined Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, Orange County Health Commissioner Dr. Irina Gelman and Commissioner of Emergency Services Brendan Casey on Fri., Mar. 6 to provide a status update to residents about the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Neuhaus said, “I will continue to have these important conversations with my partners in local government and the private sector to ensure that we are prepared as we continue to monitor COVID-19 in New York State.”
A recent communication from Governor Andrew Cuomo states, “From the beginning, we have believed it was not a question of if New York would have a coronavirus case, but when. That’s why New York State has been preparing for weeks, and we are diligently managing the situation…We expect there to be more positive cases, but rest assured that New York State is taking all necessary actions to contain the potential spread of this virus.”
According to the Associated Press, “… even as COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, reached 90 countries, more than half of those who contracted the virus have now recovered. And it’s retreating in China, where it first emerged, and nearby South Korea. The 100,000 figure of global infections is largely symbolic, but dwarfs other major outbreaks in recent decades, such as SARS, MERS and Ebola. The virus is still much less widespread than annual flu epidemics, which result in up to 5 million annual severe cases around the world and from 290,000 to 650,000 deaths annually, according to WHO (World Health Organization).”
Gov. Cuomo stated, “It’s important that we don’t allow fear and panic to outpace reason. Perspective is key here. This isn’t our first rodeo — we have dealt with the swine flu, Ebola, SARS and the seasonal flu. We are fully coordinated, we are fully mobilized and we are fully prepared to deal with this situation as it develops.”
Important Contact Information
For general questions, the public may contact the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) 2019 Novel Coronavirus hotline at 1-888-364-3065 to speak with a NYSDOH expert who will answer questions. After hours, voicemail messages will be returned the following business day. If you are an Orange County resident and have recently traveled outside the U.S. and have questions regarding COVID-19, contact the Orange County Department of Health at 291-2330. For those who feel they are experiencing symptoms, call your medical provider for guidance. For the most up-to-date information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.