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Cuomo Orders Containment Zone for Coronavirus in New Rochelle

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Cuomo Orders Containment Zone for Coronavirus in New Rochelle

2020-03-11 14:20:311 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Andrew Cuomo (Image source: Parnow via Wikimedia Commons)

Life in New Rochelle will be different for the next few weeks. Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered a containment zone around New Rochelle to help contain the coronavirus outbreak, and many businesses will be closed, with large indoor gatherings banned.

A one-mile radius around New Rochelle in Westchester County was created by state officials. Sitting square in the middle of the containment area is the Youth Israel synagogue that is at the center of the outbreak after a man with COVID-19 attended services and unknowingly passed the virus on to Rabbi Reuven Fink. 

There are similar containment plans across the country. Officials in Santa Clara County, California, issued a ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people, and other locations look ready to do the same.

Nationwide there are now more than 1,000 coronavirus cases with 170 in New York, making it the state with the third-highest amount of cases after Washington and California. 

However, while Washington and California have both reported deaths, New York has not. Cuomo's decision to isolate New Rochelle seems to be designed to eliminate the close contact that is passing the disease around.

"This is literally a matter of life and death," he said. "That's not an overly rhetorical statement." 

The National Guard will be deployed to the containment area to clean schools and deliver food to those who are quarantined. This includes thousands of students who have been forced into home isolation. All schools, houses of worship, and other large gathering places will remain closed for two weeks starting Thursday.  Cuomo does not plan to close streets or impose travel restrictions, and businesses such as grocery stores and delis will remain open.

Still, the streets are more empty than usual, and they'll soon be carrying the National Guard, which could be unsettling to some residents. 

"When you see someone from the National Guard on your street or outside your home, it is natural and human to find it somewhat unsettling because it is a visible illustration that things in your community are not functioning as they normally do," said New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson at a news conference.

"But I want to emphasize that the guard is here to help us," he insisted. "They are not here to provide a military function; they are not here to provide a policing function. New Rochelle is not on martial law." 

The area has both homes and businesses with houses of worship, a dozen schools, and at least one country club. Sporting events and student plays have already been canceled at the schools.

Bramson's office issued robocalls about the containment, and landscaping business owner Anthony Bulfamante received that call, along with others from friends calling and checking in on him. Some were offering him a place to sleep. 

"I have no problem sleeping in New Rochelle," he reported. "You've got to live your life."

Bramson noted that some businesses are already struggling "because a fair percentage of the customer base is already quarantined." His mother lives in an area nursing home and is quarantined. 

As of Tuesday, there were 108 patients with coronavirus in Westchester, according to Cuomo, with most being in New Rochelle. The outbreak located there after the man who visited his synagogue, Manhattan attorney Lawrence Garbuz, was diagnosed. Before the containment, areas specific to him had already been closed, including his children's schools and Young Israel.

There are plans to set up a satellite testing facility for New Rochelle to increase the ability of officials to test for coronavirus in the city. No student, teacher, or parent from the three public schools has tested positive for COVID-19. Gabuz's teenage daughter tested positive, but she attends a private school. His son tested positive as well, but he attends college. 

"It is inevitable that one of our students or staff will contract the virus," said Laura Feijoo, the schools superintendent. "What is in our control is for us to be ready."

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