New York will begin contracting private labs to increase testing capacity for the novel coronavirus as officials work to contain an outbreak largely concentrated in a Westchester County suburb. In a press conference on Wednesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said testing efforts at a federal level are not enough to satisfy the state’s needs.
“New York state has decided to use 28 private labs in the state to increase testing,” Cuomo said, while announcing that there are now 212 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region, including 48 in New York City. “New York can no longer rely on the CDC or FDA, but some of these state labs still need FDA-approved protocols.”
The news comes a day after Cuomo announced a one-mile “containment zone” in New Rochelle that will shut down for two weeks beginning on Thursday. He said the National Guard will help sanitize the area and that “large gathering facilities” within the zone will be shut down as officials work to stifle the spread of coronavirus.
Some businesses within the zone will remain open, and those who live within the one-mile radius will be allowed to come and go as needed, Cuomo said on Tuesday. Additionally, Northwell Health set up a satellite testing area in the zone to help expedite the process.
The New Rochelle cases have been linked to a lawyer who works in midtown Manhattan and visited a synagogue and other locations while infectious. That man’s wife, two children, and a neighbor who drove him to a hospital in Bronxville all tested positive for the virus, as did several other members of a family that had contact with him. He has since been transferred to a hospital in New York City where he is said to be improving. It is not known yet where he contracted the viral infection as he has no prior travel history to coronavirus hotspots.
Cuomo also announced that SUNY and CUNY schools would be moving to “distance learning” starting on March 19, and while campuses would not be closed entirely, the majority of instruction would be taking place online.
He said a decision on the city’s famed St. Patrick’s Day Parade is expected to come later after he meets with parade organizers.