NEW YORK — New York state over the weekend reported its first two deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, victims who authorities said both had underlying medical conditions.
An 82-year-old woman who had advanced emphysema died Friday at Wyckoff Medical Center in Brooklyn, where she had been in critical condition after being admitted last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
Hours later, authorities in Rockland County confirmed that a 65-year-old with “other significant health problems” who died Thursday was revealed during an autopsy to have been infected.
“We’ve known from the outset that these people are the most at risk in this pandemic, and today’s news is a sad confirmation of that reality,” de Blasio said.
The news came as Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that more than 600 New Yorkers have been diagnosed so far with COVID-19.
The infected included two members of the New York Assembly, Helene Weinstein, 67, and Charles Barron, 69, both Brooklyn Democrats.
Both lawmakers have been absent from Albany since the beginning of the month, but all legislators and staff who came into contact with them will be tested, Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement.
The Capitol building is being cleaned and has been closed to visitors, they said.
In a statement Saturday, Weinstein said she quarantined herself Wednesday when she began having symptoms.
“I am resting comfortably and continue to work from home on legislative matters, and I am disappointed that I cannot be with my colleagues as we work toward a budget agreement,” she said.
New York City officials said a firefighter in Brooklyn had also tested positive. About 30 of the firefighter’s colleagues were quarantined, and the firehouse was being cleaned, de Blasio said. The infected firefighter went home Tuesday with symptoms and tested positive Friday.
Cuomo said he believes thousands of New Yorkers — perhaps tens of thousands — already have the disease. The true number of people with the virus in the state is unknown because testing is still being done across the U.S. on a very limited basis.
“It has already spread much more than you know,” Cuomo said on a conference call with reporters. “The infection rate will be massive.”
The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
Cuomo said the death of the 82-year-old underscored the “grave situation” involving people with underlying respiratory conditions who contract the coronavirus.
“That’s what we’re going to see playing out now as a general rule,” he said.
Few details were available Saturday about the death of the 65-year-old, which was reported in the village of Suffern. The authorities said there were 13 positive cases of coronavirus in Rockland County.
New York’s outbreak was initially centered around a community in New Rochelle, a small city in the Westchester County suburbs. Many have been members of one religious congregation or friends and neighbors of a lawyer who commuted into Manhattan.
In recent days, though, cases have been diagnosed around the state.
New York City and state are under a state of emergency. Cuomo ordered theaters, sports arenas and other gathering places that seat 500 people or more shut down Friday evening in an attempt to slow the spread.
Across the Hudson River, the mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, imposed a curfew that will require residents to be in their homes between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., starting Monday, and said restaurants and bars would have to stop serving food, except takeout or delivery.
Mayor Ravi Bhalla said a person injured in a bar fight Saturday night had to wait more than 30 minutes for an ambulance because the emergency medical service was overwhelmed with service calls.
The spread of the virus has prompted multiple colleges and universities in New York to cancel in-person classes and move to online instruction, or to temporarily close entirely.
Museums and other tourist attractions have closed. Many universities and colleges have canceled classes or moved to online instruction, but New York City’s huge school system has remained open.
Cuomo said local school districts have the discretion to close and must do so, at least temporarily, in the event of a positive test for the virus.
“If you close the schools, you hinder the work force,” he said. “This whole exercise is about meeting the capacity of the health care system.”
Cuomo also signed an executive order Saturday modifying certain election procedures, including suspending the candidate petitioning process for the June primaries.
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