NY coronavirus cases hit 142, including port agency official

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Coronavirus case numbers swelled in New York on Monday and reached into government itself, with the head of the agency that runs New York City-area airports testing positive.

School closings, college class cancellations and other fallout from the virus continued to grow. Some key developments around the state:

NEW CASES

New York state’s coronavirus caseload rose Monday from 105 to 142 and now includes a key figure in managing busy New York City-area airports: Rick Cotton, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

He tested positive but has no symptoms and is quarantining himself and working from home, as are staff members who had close contact with him in recent days, the port authority said in a statement Monday. The agency runs Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark and some other airports, as well as the PATH commuter rail, bus terminals and some bridges and tunnels.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted that Cotton had been at the airports while travelers were returning from countries that have become hotspots for the virus.

Most coronavirus cases in the state are linked to a cluster in suburban Westchester County, north of New York City. But patients are spread from Long Island to the Capital Region, with 19 in New York City.

The governor has declared a state of emergency to make it easier to respond to the outbreak, and he has repeatedly noted that the case tally is expected to keep rising as more people get tested for the virus that causes COVID-19.

Cuomo has stressed that most people who become infected will have mild symptoms.

Some 6% of the patients are hospitalized, Cuomo said, adding that most of them have underlying medical problems. Some have needed intensive care.

Meanwhile, the governor unveiled the state’s own line of hand sanitizer, to be provided to government agencies, schools, prisons and transit workers.

Sanitizer has been running short — or running out — in shops and online markets. New York’s version is being made by prison inmates, who already make various cleaning products.

SCHOOL CLOSURES

Confirmed and suspected cases of coronavirus have led to a small but growing number of universities and schools shutting their doors — and Cuomo said more closures will come.

He announced Monday that any school where a student tests positive will be closed for at least 24 hours for assessment, and schools in the Westchester County hotspot of New Rochelle will likely remain closed for weeks.

Some other school districts, including Scarsdale in Westchester County and Shoreham-Wading River on Long Island, have also closed for various lengths of time.

So have some private schools. Colleges, including Columbia University, Fordham University and Hofstra University, have canceled classes and/or shifted to online instruction.

PHARMACY CUSTOMERS CONTACTED

CVS Pharmacy officials said they were helping state and local health officials contact patients who received prescription medication March 2 and March 4 from a northern New York pharmacist who has tested positive for the virus.

The company said the risk to customers at its store in Queensbury was considered low.

The pharmacist and co-workers who were exposed have been placed under quarantine and will be on paid leave, according to a statement the company posted online Sunday.

The pharmacist was not displaying COVID-19 symptoms, which include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

The store 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Albany was closed for cleaning Saturday. Meanwhile, a hospital in nearby Glens Falls on Sunday canceled a planned public forum on the virus.

The hospital plans instead to post a video presentation and take questions online.

COURT ORDER

People showing up to federal court in Manhattan and some northern suburbs were greeted Monday with notices bearing a judge’s order: Don’t come in if you have had contact with anyone who has tested positive for the virus, if you traveled to a hotspot country in the last two weeks or had close contact with someone who did, or if medical professionals have asked to quarantine yourself.

The new restrictions are in effect until authorities decide it’s safe to lift them.

Asked whether state courts were considering similar measures, Cuomo said not for now.

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