New York to close schools in suburb at center of coronavirus outbreak

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Schools and “major gathering places” in a part of the New York City suburb of New Rochelle will shut down for two weeks in an effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak at its local epicenter, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Commissioner of Health for New York State Howard Zucker, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio deliver remarks at a news conference regarding the first confirmed case of coronavirus in New York State in Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

The shutdown, which begins on Thursday and is due to last until March 25, affects an area of New Rochelle in Westchester County that measures 1 mile (1.61 km) in diameter. The area is accounts for more than 100 of the state’s 173 confirmed cases, the governor said.

“This will be a period of disruption for the local community,” Cuomo said. “It is a dramatic action, but it is the largest cluster in the country. And this is literally a matter of life and death.”

Cuomo said he was calling in the National Guard to the containment area to assist with cleaning public spaces and to deliver food to homes.

The number of cases of the highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the virus has risen steadily to 791 in the United States this week, and there have been at least 27 deaths, most of them in Washington state, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. That tally did not include a death reported in New Jersey on Tuesday, the state’s first.

The New York governor’s office was still working with the mayor of New Rochelle and the Westchester County executive to identify the list of businesses and facilities that would be closed, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa said.

“It’s major gathering places,” Cuomo said, adding that the list included a Jewish temple in addition to several schools.

The group of cases in Westchester County emerged after an attorney who lives in New Rochelle and works in Manhattan became the second person in New York to be diagnosed with the virus last week.

Cuomo distinguished the containment measure from a quarantine and said it would not limit people’s movement into and out of the area.

Northwell Health, a private healthcare provider, will set up a satellite facility in New Rochelle to conduct coronavirus testing, Cuomo said.

Reporting by Gabriella Borter; additional reporting by Maria Caspani; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Rosalba O’Brien

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