NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Once a positive coronavirus case is identified, officials say it is all hands on deck.
There’s a coordinated effort to retrace the patient’s steps to see who else may have been exposed to the disease.
CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas outlines the process.
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New York’s second confirmed coronavirus patient, a 50-year-old man from New Rochelle who works in New York City, was transferred to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in Washington Heights. He’s in serious condition.
The first step is the positive diagnosis. Now the widespread investigation begins.
Providing the best medical care is the first priority after a positive coronavirus diagnosis. Then the health commissioner is called. On Tuesday, that was at 1 a.m.
“As soon as we’re notified our role is to start investigating, to start interviewing everybody that we can that might have information,” said Westchester County Commissioner of Health Dr. Sherlita Amler.
The goal is to find out how the patient contracted the virus, and who else may be exposed. That starts with testing the patient’s family, and in this case employees at Lewis and Garbuz, P.C., the Manhattan law firm where he worked.
“In the case of the small law firm, there are seven people who work at the firm who have been identified by the Department of Health as worthy of follow up. That testing will proceed. Others who did not have that direct contact have been given broad precautions and guidance,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
The results may cast an even wider net that will take days to identify. Those who test positive are quarantined.
“Disease detectives from the Health Department are identifying anyone who had close contact with these three individuals for coronavirus testing. The Department is providing anyone who may have had incidental contact with precautionary measures and information. City agencies have personnel on the ground and are working closely with the law firm, building operators and academic institutions to ensure employees are being given appropriate guidance. Anyone concerned about close contact with these individuals should go to their health care provider or call 311,” the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said in a press release.
For now, the focus is on those who have regular and prolonged contact with the patient – perhaps sharing an office – not those who may share public spaces in passing.
“Home is the issue, home is the problem. Where you are in constant, regular, intense contact with other people, breathing the same air, the same bodily fluids around, like that’s the issue,” de Blasio said. “Subway is the other extreme, limited contact in a more open space, short period of time. Subways is not our problem right now. Home is our problem.”
The unidentified man in this case did not travel overseas to areas where the coronavirus is more prevalent. For now, it’s believed this is a result of what’s being called “community spread,” which reinforces the need for the public to take precautions.
“Handwashing is the number one thing I can tell you. It is the most important thing you and your family can do to protect yourself,” Dr. Amler said.
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Health officials are learning more each day about the coronavirus as they prepare for it to spread. There’s a push to diagnose cases even earlier as local leaders join health care professionals in trying to prevent an outbreak.
If you feel like you may have been exposed to the coronavirus, which presents as flu-like symptoms, health officials say don’t just show up at an emergency room or urgent care. First, call ahead, so medical staff can take the necessary precautions.