Health and Science

New York Gov. Cuomo says community transmission of coronavirus is 'inevitable' after confirming state's first case

Key Points
  • Community spread of the new coronavirus, which has now infected more than 80 people in the U.S., is "inevitable," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.
  • New York officials confirmed on Sunday the first COVID-19 infection in New York.
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New York Gov. Cuomo: Community transmission of coronavirus is 'inevitable'

Community transmission of the new coronavirus is "inevitable," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday, a day after the state confirmed its first case.

A woman in New York City is the first COVID-19 infection in the state, health officials said Sunday. More than 80 cases have been confirmed in the United States, including the first two deaths, which were reported this weekend near Seattle.

The woman, in her late 30s, is a health worker who returned from Iran on Tuesday and is currently isolated in her home in New York City, officials said. Cuomo said the woman was tested at Mount Sinai Hospital. 

"We will have community spread," Cuomo told reporters at a news briefing alongside New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. "That is inevitable."

Cuomo said the new patient wasn't symptomatic when she landed, and she only recently developed respiratory symptoms associated with COVID-19. As a result, he said, he doesn't believe the woman was contagious when she arrived in New York and took a private car to her home — even though U.S. and world health officials say the disease can spread before symptoms show.

Officials didn't specify the airport or say which New York borough she lives in. They did say her husband, also a health-care worker, was tested for the virus and they expect him to be positive as well. 

State health officials are reaching out to the other passengers on the plane as well as the driver of the car she took home from the airport, Cuomo said. 

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Cuomo added that the city plans to aggressively ramp up diagnostic testing for the coronavirus.

Until recently, public health labs around the country have mostly relied on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct testing. The CDC sent test kits earlier in the outbreak to state and local public health labs, but those kits were problematic and potentially inaccurate, CDC officials have since said. Because local clinicians could not rely on those tests, some have had to ship samples to the CDC's headquarters in Atlanta, delaying the process of diagnosis and treatment.

The CDC and federal health officials announced plans last week to roll out new test kits for state and local labs across the county. Cuomo said he would like to see New York City conducting "1,000 tests per day."

"Test as many as you can and then isolate those people so you reduce the spread," he said. "That's what all this is about, is reducing the spread, not eliminating the spread."

New York's first case comes after Washington state and California officials confirmed new cases over the weekend. Public health officials in Seattle reported the nation's first two deaths and several new cases Saturday and Sunday, adding that 50 residents and employees of a nursing care facility were being tested for the new coronavirus after several people there tested positive for COVID-19.

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