Coronavirus Deaths Hit 15, Infection Shows New Signs of New York Spread 1

The death toll for the 2019 novel coronavirus spiked in the United States on Friday to a total of 15, while infections in New York state jumped to 44, double the figure a day earlier.

“The number will continue to go up because it’s mathematics,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said early Friday. “The more you test, the more you will find.”

The numbers in New York rose in recent days from 11 to 22 to 33 to 44, with cases in Westchester County, Nassau County, and New York City. By Friday, Gap’s Manhattan headquarters reportedly closed over a case of the virus.

Nationally, there were a total of 15 deaths connected to the virus–14 in Washington state and one in California.

Two more people died overnight from the virus in Kirkland, Washington, according to the chief executive of the hospital treating many of the patients, EvergreenHealth CEO Jeff Tomlin. Tomlin said that 12 people total had died at EvergreenHealth hospital as of late Friday morning local time. Authorities previously reported that one person died at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, while another died in Snohomish County. California reported its first death on Wednesday.

There were at least 148 confirmed cases in the United States by Friday, including 99 picked up through the health system and another 49 in patients who were evacuated on State Department-chartered planes or the disastrous Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, according to an online tally from the CDC. Johns Hopkins University’s count pegged the national tally higher, at 233.

Meanwhile, in New York state, a Manhattan lawyer diagnosed with the 2019 novel coronavirus was in critical condition as new cases connected to his Westchester County temple, New Rochelle neighborhood, and family were announced on Friday.

The man’s 20-year-old son, a student at Yeshiva University, and 14-year-old daughter, a student at SAR Academy and High School in the Bronx—which has been shut down out of an abundance of caution—were confirmed to have the virus on Wednesday, along with the neighbor who drove him to the hospital, and at least five others. 

The 50-year-old lawyer, part of a boutique seven-lawyer practice across 42nd street from Grand Central Terminal, where he often reportedly commuted on the Metro-North Railroad, was last reported to be in critical condition at the New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center in Manhattan, according to health officials

Westchester County Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler on Tuesday directed Young Israel of New Rochelle, the synagogue the lawyer’s family reportedly attended, to halt all services immediately “and for the foreseeable future” over potential exposure, and for congregants to self-quarantine until at least March 8 following services on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23.

On Friday, those self-quarantine orders appeared to be justified, when Dr. Ari Berman, president of Yeshiva University, announced that the temple’s rabbi, Reuven Fink, tested positive for the virus. Fink also teaches two undergraduate courses at the private school’s Washington Heights campus, according to Berman.

“We have reached out to his students and recommended as a precautionary measure to self-quarantine until further notice,” added Berman, in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Rabbi Fink for a full and speedy recovery.”

“As New York City continues to see more cases, I am reminding New Yorkers to remain vigilant, but not alarmed,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday afternoon. “We are continuing to do everything in our power to keep New Yorkers safe and healthy, and are asking our federal partners to help us increase testing capacity so we can get the job done faster.”

De Blasio had said on Thursday that there were four total cases in New York City, including a man in his forties and a woman in her eighties who “are critically ill” and had preexisting conditions. One of those patients was in a hospital in Brooklyn, and another was in Manhattan, he noted.

On Thursday night, the city’s Department of Health said 2,733 people were being monitored in home isolation, most of them due to recent visits to China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, or Japan.

“We’re obviously in a crisis,” De Blasio said.

Washington has declared a state public health emergency, followed by declarations from California and Florida, as new cases in New Jersey, outside the quarantine zone in Texas, and in Tennessee brought the number of states with infected patients to at least 18.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said on Friday that there were a total of 98,023 reported cases in dozens of countries, with 3,380 deaths.

Speaking at a Geneva, Switzerland press conference a day earlier, Tedros said the WHO is “calling on every country to act with speed, scale, and clear-minded determination.” 

“This epidemic is a threat for every country, rich and poor, and as we have said before: Even the high-income countries should expect surprises,” he continued. “There is still a lot we don’t know, but every day we are learning more and we are working around the clock to fill in the gaps in our knowledge.”

“The solution is aggressive preparedness,” said Tedros. “This is not a drill. This is not the time to give up. This is not the time for excuses. This is a time for bringing out all the stops.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, reiterated on Friday morning that the U.S. was behind other countries due to issues with diagnostic tests. “We’re not going to have a vaccine in the immediate future,” said Fauci, who cautioned that he was more hopeful about the drugs in clinical trials for therapeutic treatment.

—with additional reporting from Pilar Melendez.