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Everything You Need to Know About Coronavirus in the New York Metro Area

Everything You Need to Know About Coronavirus in the New York Metro Area

Here are the latest news developments about the virus—and tips from experts on how to protect your kids

*Author's note: This article is being updated daily as the coronavirus outbreak continues to develop. Follow along with the CDC's Health Alert Network for more updates. 

So far, coronavirus has sickened more than 1,622,000 people, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, and the United States has the highest number of cases of any country as of March 26. The WHO has declared the virus a pandemic as of Wednesday, March 11. Italy has shut down, the U.S. stock market plummeted on March 9, and people are concerned about the U.S.'s capacity to handle the virus. “Coronavirus” refers to a group of viruses that cause anything from the common cold to more serious respiratory problems—but this particular strain is a never-before-seen novel virus that scientists are racing to understand. Parents who remember the SARS outbreak of 2002 or the H1N1 outbreak of 2009 might be worried about what this virus will mean for their kids—after all, its epidemiology is unknown. Gustavo Ferrer, M.D., F.C.C.P., the program director of the Aventura Hospital Pulmonary and Critical Care and Pulmonary Disease, as well as other health experts share up-to-date information on this coronavirus and tips for keeping kids healthy in the crowded New York metro area.

The latest New York coronavirus developments

Governor Cuomo declared a state of emergency on Saturday, March 7, which will allow the state to speed up the purchase of supplies and hire workers to assist local health departments, which have been monitoring self-quarantined people. The number of cases in New York State has jumped to more than 120,000, with more than 87,000 in NYC). There are more than 467,000 cases in the United States. NYC schools have closed, bars and restaurants have been shut down (besides takeout and delivery), Broadway has been shuttered, events for more than 50 people have been cancelled, and employees of private companies are working from home. The state is currently "on pause" and will be through the end of April.

Cuomo has set up temporary hospital sites in every borough, in Westchester and Ulster counties, and at SUNY Stony Brook and Old Westbury in Suffolk and Nassau counties.

Cuomo criticized the CDC's slow response to coronavirus and its lag in authorizing laboratories around the state to test for the virus, particularly Northwell Health Labs.  The United States has dropped all federal limits on virus testing, but the virus is still spreading faster than the capacity to test is increasing. 

The state opened a "drive through" testing facility in New Rochelle. Northwell Health has semiautomated its testing and can now test 160 patients for coronavirus per day. ProHEALTH Urgent Care now offers drive-through testing in Little Neck, Jericho, and Stony Brook.

“We really need to take more aggressive actions. This is not going away on its own," he said, according to CNN. “Like it or not, we’re going to have to make some tough decisions, and we’re going to have to start to act united to reduce the density, more testing more testing more testing that’s the only way to reduce the spread.”  

Cuomo has been broadcasting coronavirus briefings on Facebook Live. On March 23, he mentioned that New York State to begin independently testing on March 13 after he encouraged a decentralization of the testing process. 

"In ten days, we've gone from testing 1,000 people per day to 16,000 people per day, more than any other state in the United States is testing, and more per capita than South Korea, which was the gold standard of testing," he said. "In short, we're doing more testing than anywhere."

New York currently has 53,000 hospital beds and might need 110,000, according to Cuomo. There are 3,000 ICU beds, but estimated need is between 18,000-37,000 beds—and the state needs ventilators. On March 23, Cuomo is issuing an emergency order: hospitals must increase their capacity by 50 percent. Meanwhile, the Javits Center has transformed into a 1,000-bed temporary hospital, and Central Park is next. 

The state has also reached out to more than 70,000 registered, retired hospital staff to enlist their help in increasing current hospital staff, so there are viable replacements if doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapists get sick. 

"Supplies are the ongoing challenge nationwide," Cuomo said. "This is happening on an ad hoc basis. We have made certain strides. We have a team working on it. But this is not the way to do it—I'm competing with other states, I'm bidding up other states on the prices." He called on the federal government to put the Federal Defense Production Act so factories producing medical supplies have a set number of products to produce.

"We need to know the numbers of what we need produced, and who is going to produce that, and when," Cuomo said. "...Yes, it is an assertion of government power on private sector companies. But so what? This is a national emergency."

You can watch Cuomo's daily briefings live on his Facebook page.

What to know about the coronavirus

This virus can be anxiety-inducing because we’ve never seen it before, and scientists are unaware of its true potential to harm people. Dr. Roberto Posada, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Mount Sinai Kravis Children's Hospital, reminds parents that most people affected by the virus—about 80 percent—only show mild symptoms and do not require hospital care, and the the majority of people hit hard are elderly or have preexisting conditions. Children are the least likely group to be severely affected. However, keep in mind that the virus has now been shown to spread locally—meaning you do not have to have been in contact with a known patient, or travel to an affected country, to contract the virus. 

Dr. Ferrer recommends that parents do not panic. Keep in mind—the flu has killed thousands of people in the United States alone this year.

“At some point in our lives, we’ve all been infected with coronavirus. It’s one of the many viruses that produces cold or flu like symptoms,” Dr. Ferrer says. “Don’t panic [about this one]. The reason this virus has progressed so quickly is it’s still not well understood, but outbreaks happen every year. We should remain aware of our surroundings, aware of the information that is coming through the surveillance systems of the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], and take measures if your children develop respiratory symptoms.”

The virus is spread when viral droplets (from a cough or sneeze) directly enter a person's eyes, nose, or mouth. Droplets can linger on surfaces like subway rails or door handles. The aggressiveness of this coronavirus is still unknown, and could be due to the planet’s population growth, which provides the virus with more chances to mutate and become stronger, Dr. Ferrer says. That’s why early detection is key in treating it—and learning more about it. While symptoms can look just like the common cold or flu, be on guard.

“A lot of times we wait too long to go to the doctor because we’re used to just ‘getting through’ the cold and flu,” Dr. Ferrer says.

The signs of coronavirus can be fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, and respiratory difficulties that can turn into pneumonia—and that can worsen rapidly, Dr. Ferrer says. The virus can have lasting effects, such as lung scarring, even on young and healthy people. Experts say that if your fever reaches 100.4 degrees and you have all the symptoms above, it's time to call the doctor.

How to protect your kids against the virus

Coronavirus has sickened very few kids so far (and experts are struggling to understand why), but good hygiene and health practices are still essential to protect your kids and family members or friends who might be immunocompromised. Always encourage kids of all ages to cough and sneeze into their elbows, not their hands. Make sure kids wash their hands thoroughly and often (hand sanitizer is helpful, but not a replacement!). Do not go out right now if you or your kids are sick. Take extra care with kids who have chronic conditions or compromised immune systems.

If your child starts to exhibit coronavirus symptoms, experts recommend you call your local health provider before taking your child to the doctor to figure out the best course of action.

If you're working from home, you get to stay in with the kids. But if you're an essential worker, here are some tips on finding last-minute child care. WeeCare, a large network of licensed home day care providers, has introduced "Fever-Free Zones" to help prevent the spread of the virus, where day care providers have to submit evidence that their home is fever free before being authorized to provide care for the day. You can find a fever-free WeeCare home day care option within a five-mile radius of your home beginning now.

How to talk to kids about the coronavirus

The Child Mind Institute published tips on how to talk to your kids about coronavirus with inciting panic or fear. Strategies include

Don't be afraid to talk about the virusnot talking about the illness kids will probably hear about on the news can make them more anxious. Keep conversations going as the story develops.

Be developmentally appropriate. Too much information can be overwhelming. Meet your kids at their level.

Be reassuring, focus on what your family can do to stay safe, and stick to your routine as much as possible. Structured days with regular mealtimes can be essential to keeping kids healthy and happy, says Janine Domingues, Ph.D., a child psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, especially if their schools close. You can read the rest of the tips on the Child Mind website.

Common Sense Media has also released guidelines to help parents now that schools have closed. Check out their tips, resources, and more. This piece provides strategies for easing anxiety in kids with special needs, as well.

Traveling amid coronavirus concerns

Public transportation in NYC is still running, and the MTA has started to clean more. Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai suggests that parents should take some extra precautions to keep kids safe. Avoid people who seem like they might be sick, cough and sneeze into your elbow, and follow the news for updates about the virus. 

Francesca Page, the TV host, journalist and travel expert behind Miss Travel Guru, provided tips for people considering keeping their summer travel plans intact. 

  • If you do decide to travel, get the flu shot and all other necessary vaccinations, rest, stay hydrated, and stay as healthy as possible before getting on the plane.
  • Consider refundable rates when booking hotels and rental cars. "Read the fine print," Page says. "And note the cancellation window on your hotel booking."
  • If you're going on a cruise, check the line's cancellation policies. According to Page, many lines have been giving vouchers for people who decide to change their plans because of the virus.
  • Read the terms and conditions of your travel insurance carefully. When unsure which plan to buy, get the Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) option.



Jacqueline Neber

Author: Jacqueline Neber is an assistant editor and a graduate of The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. When she's not focused on writing special needs and education features, you can find her petting someone else's dog. See More

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