NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – The effects of the pandemic have touched all our lives over the past 70 days, and now the lawyer famous as “patient zero” and his community are looking to the future.
“I’m thankful to be alive, to be honest with you,” said Lawrence Garbuz on Monday morning. “It’s been quite a journey.”
Lawrence and Adina Garbuz spoke to The Today Show about his early March plunge into the pandemic spotlight.
The lawyer was labeled “patient zero” for the outbreak at Young Israel of New Rochelle at a time when confirmed cases were few and focused in Westchester County’s second-largest city.
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“Just think about it, New Rochelle has more than double the cases of New York City,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo on March 19.
It led Cuomo to declare a 1-mile radius New Rochelle “containment area” about the COVID-19 outbreak.
Garbuz’s late February movements were retraced on network news, and a tabloid declared his hometown “New Roch-Hell.”
Resident John Lanser heard from a concerned family.
“I got a lot of phone calls and emails, you know, ‘Is everything okay down there?'”, he said. “It seemed like it was a major thing that a lot of my family was afraid.”
“Really have not been focused on the media frenzy as one of the first patients to get it,” said Garbuz. “I’ve been focused on getting better.”
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Garbuz spent two weeks in ICU and says his family is key as he struggles to complete his recovery.
“I think that I appreciate life a lot more,” he said. “Every day is an absolute gift that God has given every one of us to enjoy, we need to appreciate family and friends, and live life.”
New Rochelle is recovering too.
“The residents and city officials and employees handled it very well in the beginning,” said New Rochelle City Manager Chuck Strome. “We were the focus of this national thing and it was horrible. I think a lot of folks watched what we did and copied that.”
Tough calls such as closing houses of worship and smart moves including food aid and increased testing were among the struggles of spring that now are giving way to hope as summer approaches.