Coronavirus pandemic: Two New York State Assembly members test positive, Capitol to undergo intensive cleaning
While US President Donald Trump has tested negative for COVID-19, two New York State Assembly members -- Helene Weinstein and Charles Barron -- have been diagnosed with the infection.
“It has come to our attention that two of our Assembly colleagues - Helene Weinstein and Charles Barron - have been diagnosed with COVID-19. It is important to note that both members have not been in Albany since early March for separate reasons. Speaker Heastie has been in contact with both members and we are taking swift action to address this situation,” said a March 14 statement from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“We have spoken with the Senate and are undertaking an intensive cleaning of the Capitol and the Legislative Office Building. All legislators and staff that have come in contact with these members will be tested to ensure the safety of everyone,” he added.
As a precautionary measure, the Capitol has been closed to visitors effective March 15. “We are working hand in glove to contain and mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 in New York but we will continue to act aggressively to protect the public health,” the Governor added.
In the US, over 2,950 have been infected with the virus, and at least 57 have died. As of Saturday night, New York State had over 600 confirmed coronavirus cases, reports the New York Times. The largest concentration of cases was in New York City, where 269 people have tested positive. There were 178 confirmed cases in Westchester County, just north of New York City.
Two deaths in New York
There have been two deaths in New York State -- an 82-year-old woman and a 65-year-old man. Both had underlying medical conditions.
“I am saddened to report the #COVID19-related death of an 82-year-old woman in NYC who had a pre-existing respiratory disease (emphysema). I extend my condolences to her family during this challenging time,” Cuomo tweeted.
He also tweeted the second death. “This afternoon the Rockland County medical examiner's office confirmed the #Coronavirus-related death of a 65-year-old man who also had underlying health problems. My condolences go out to his family,” he said.
Cuomo had earlier announced the country's first containment zone in New Rochelle, Westchester County, the epicenter of New York's COVID-19 outbreak. The zone -- which came into effect on March 12 -- is a 1-mile radius around the site of the most cases in New Rochelle. Accordingly, large gathering places and schools in this area will be shut until March 25.
The governor announced a new directive on March 14, which requires New York health insurers to waive cost-sharing associated with testing for COVID-19. This includes emergency room, urgent care, and office visits. “We can't let cost be a barrier to access to COVID-19 testing for any New Yorker,” he said.
Cuomo added, “New Yorkers receiving Medicaid coverage will not have to pay a co-pay for any testing related to #coronavirus. Currently all COVID-19 tests being conducted at the State's Wadsworth Lab are fully covered.”