Nassau Prepared For Coronavirus; Public Should Not Stay Home Unless Sick, Officials Say

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round gold objects) emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. SARS-CoV-2, also known as 2019-nCoV, is the virus that causes COVID-19. The virus shown was isolated from a patient in the U.S. Credit: NIAID-RML

Long Islanders should live their lives as usual amid coronavirus outbreak fears but stay home and contact their healthcare providers if they have symptoms of a respiratory illness, Nassau County officials say.

Local health officials urge the public to not let fears of a possible pandemic disrupt their daily routine. But residents should practice good personal hygiene and not touch their faces, as this is the most common way that the virus is spread.

“The best way to protect yourself right now is still to wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, and if you don’t feel well, stay home,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran told reporters Wednesday during a news conference at Nassau University Medical Center.

There are currently 22 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York State and at least 160 cases in 17 states. Eleven people have died of coronavirus nationwide as of Thursday morning.

Nassau health officials said Wednesday that the county completed monitoring of 147 travelers and is current monitoring 62. The county has had six tests come back negative before one case was confirmed Thursday.

County officials say they are continuing to coordinate with state and federal partners as well as officials in New York City and local villages to adjust preparedness plans as the situation unfolds.

“This clearly is an evolving situation, things are changing on a daily basis, so we are closely monitoring all the data and what’s going on in our institution and making preparations as appropriate,” said Dr. Janice Verley, chief of the infectious disease section at NUMC.

NUMC staffers are also closely monitoring waiting rooms for signs of patients who may not be self-reporting respiratory symptoms that may require closer attention and possible coronavirus testing.

Robert Detor, who chairs NuHealth, the public benefit corporation that runs NUMC, said while most coronavirus patients can be treated at home, the hospital has 60 beds available for anyone who is diagnosed with an acute case of the illness.

“We have the capacity to create an isolation floor,” he said of the 19-story medical center. Access would be restricted for patients on the isolation floor, he added.

But for now, officials urged the public to not let the fear of the virus spreading keep healthy residents home.

“At this point, there’s no reason to change your habits,” Curran said. “You can continue going to work, continue going to school, please go to restaurants, I know there was some reluctance from people to go to Chinese restaurants. There’s absolutely no danger. you can go to eat at your favorite Chinese restaurant.

“Please take care of yourself,” she continued. “We touch our faces more than we realize and that’s how this kind of virus gets transmitted most frequently … If you’re coming down with something, stay home.”