COVID-19 Coronavirus Info for New York City

Background photo
Background photo via Peter Burka on Flickr

This page will continue to be updated during the outbreak

The recent outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus named COVID-19 has the world on edge, but the virus has not yet been confirmed in New York City or the surrounding region.

As of Monday, February 17th there are 15 confirmed cases across the U.S. and zero patients under observation within the city.

It is very likely that there will be a number of cases found within NYC, given the city's diverse population and frequency of international travel. Once potential cases become known, there is no reason to panic, as the localized outbreak in China quickly activated screening worldwide to prevent further spread of the disease. Since January 17th, travelers from Wuhan have been medically screened at JFK Airport, and the CDC has advised medical professionals in how to identify the early symptoms of the disease.

Confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States

As of Monday, February 17th, 15 cases have been confirmed in the U.S. in patients who recently traveled to China or their close family members:

Location Date
Washington State / Seattle 2020-01-21
Illinois / Chicago 2020-01-24
California / Orange County 2020-01-25
Arizona / Phoenix 2020-01-26
California / Los Angeles 2020-01-26
Illinois / Chicago 2020-01-30
California / Santa Clara County 2020-01-31
Massachusetts 2020-02-01
California / Santa Clara County 2020-02-02
California / San Benito County 2020-02-02
California / San Benito County 2020-02-02
Wisconsin 2020-02-05
California / San Diego 2020-02-10
California / San Diego 2020-02-12
Texas / Lackland 2020-02-13

Cases under investigation near NYC

Cleared: 11 possible cases in NY State and 6 previous cases within NYC have all tested negative. 1 patient in NJ and 2 patients in Connecticut tested negative at the end of January 2020. 4 patients from the Anthem of the Seas cruise ship tested negative; 3 were found to have the common flu.

People under investigation are those who have recently traveled to areas where the virus is spreading or have had close contact with someone who has traveled to those areas. After evaluation according to CDC healthcare guidelines, most people are shown to instead be suffering from the seasonal flu.

The confirmed cases nearest NYC are two patients in Toronto, Canada and one in Massachusetts. Another Ontario resident had tested positive for carrying low levels of the virus, but has since recovered and been released from the hospital.

Worldwide cases

Explore a map from Johns Hopkins University where the school's Center for Systems Science and Engineering is aggregating official, confirmed statistics for coronavirus cases across the world. As of Monday, February 17th, there have been 71,902 cases worldwide, resulting in 1,775 deaths and 11,396 people who have recovered.

Health information

CDC 2019-nCoV test kit via

The CDC has developed a test to detect 2019-nCoV and began shipping it to select laboratories on February 5th.

What is a coronavirus?

Beginning in December 2019, a new virus appeared in China, centered in the city of Wuhan. The term "coronavirus" is simply a class of viruses that includes SARS, MERS, and even some types of the common cold, which all have the same "corona" structure of spikes on their surface. The current outbreak is called a "novel coronavirus" at the moment, with "novel" meaning a new type not seen before. It may receive an official name in the future, and you may also see it written as "2019-nCoV", which is the year it was first observed plus an abbreviation for "novel coronavirus".

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus via NIAID on Flickr
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus seen through a transmission electron microscope via NIAID on Flickr

Japan - Tokyo's Subway via Maya-AnaΓ―s Y. on Flickr

Should I wear a face mask?

If you've seen photos of crowds in Asian cities, you've likely seen people wearing face masks, sometimes called "sick masks" or "courtesy masks", even when there is no widespread outbreak of disease. These masks are typically secured with loops over the ears, and are somewhat effective, but by no means foolproof. The masks are made from a variety of materials, including some woven fabrics like cotton that may allow viruses to slip right through because they are only designed for protection against dust and debris particles, which are much larger. Even medical masks will rarely seal around the face securely enough to provide full protection.

You can see how small the virus actually is in the image below, which shows a similar coronavirus, MERS, shown in yellow, attached to the exterior of a single cell, shown in blue:

Middle East Repiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus particles attached to a cell via NIAID on Flickr

What you can do to protect yourself

On the plus side, wearing a mask will likely not hurt you in any way, but be aware that certain businesses like banks and jewelry stores may ask you to remove the mask before they will allow you into the building. In a study of almost 2,400 healthcare workers treating flu patients, simple medical masks were nearly as effective as more expensive N95 masks at preventing transmission of the flu from patient to healthcare worker, so if you do want an extra layer of protection when you go out in public, the simpler mask may be the best option, as long as you are aware that they provide limited protection.

The coronavirus outbreak will dominate the news, but realistically it is much more important to protect yourself from the seasonal flu. Find free and low-cost flu shots from the NYC Health Department or visit your neighborhood pharmacy, hospital, or clinic and ask if they administer flu shots. Protecting yourself from the flu also ensures that you don't pass on the flu to others with more compromised immune systems. While coronaviruses like MERS caused 449 deaths worldwide over multiple years, the seasonal flu and associated pneumonia kills 2,000 New Yorkers each year, and flu activity is increasing faster this year than in recent years.

Here are some tips from the World Health Organization on how to protect yourself against catching contagious diseases:

  • πŸ—£οΈ Cough or sneeze into your elbow to cover your mouth
  • 🧼 Frequently wash your hands with soap and hot water
  • πŸ™… Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes after being out in public
Coronavirus prevention information via WHO on Twitter

How contagious is the new coronavirus?

Imagining an outbreak of a previously-unknown virus sounds scary, but there's little risk of you contracting the disease unless you have traveled to China or have been in close proximity to someone who recently traveled to China.

According to Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, the current coronavirus is most similar to SARS, which is passed between people in close enough proximity that droplets from coughs or sneezing can pass between people. Once the virus sits on a dry surface for a few hours, it can no longer survive, so the virus likely will not spread via packaging or products shipped from China.

Dr. Messonnier also noted that the spread of the coronavirus is actually quite low when compared to a disease like measles, which can spread much faster in unvaccinated populations, like we saw in Brooklyn back in April 2019.

If you or someone you know has traveled to China in the past month or has spent time in close proximity to someone who has recently traveled to China, you may want to contact your local hospital or clinic and advise them that you would like to be screened for the coronavirus. This is especially important if you begin to show signs of infection, which include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, appearing anywhere from two to 14 days after first exposure.

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