The Coronavirus Cluster Terrorizing a New York Suburb Started With One 50-Year-Old Attorney

As many as 1,000 in the Orthodox Jewish community were placed under precautionary quarantine last week.
March 11, 2020, 4:28pm
Pedestrians pass New Rochelle City Hall, Tuesday, March 10, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)​

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New Rochelle, New York, is home to fewer than 80,000 people, but it’s home to the largest cluster of coronavirus in the United States. And more than 50 of those cases can be traced back to one man, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The 50-year-old attorney believed to be the origin of the community outbreak reportedly works near Grand Central Station in Manhattan and had an underlying health condition. He was hospitalized on March 2, but his condition has since improved.

Before long, however, people who had been in close contact with the man — including his family, a friend who drove him to the hospital, that friend’s family, and people who had been in contact with the man at his synagogue and at a bar mitzvah — later tested positive for COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Gov. Cuomo said he would deploy the National Guard to create a one-mile “containment zone” around the Young Israel synagogue beginning March 12, which would last for two weeks and ban “large gatherings” for that amount of time. As many as 1,000 in the Orthodox Jewish community associated with the temple or who live near it were placed under precautionary quarantine last week.

"We’re gonna close the school for a period of time, no large gatherings, meanwhile clean the schools and the public transit system, and bring in a satellite testing system where people in that community can get tested," Cuomo told CNN.

Read: Coronavirus has northern Italy’s hospitals on the brink of collapse

There were 108 total cases in New Rochelle as of Tuesday. Cuomo described the effect as taking off “like fire through dry grass.”

“That's why we have this very dense cluster of positives right in that area, and that's why no large gatherings and we have to go in and do what we have to do,” he added.

So far, there have been at least 1,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and at least 31 deaths across the United States. New York has the second-highest number of total cases behind Washington state, where 19 people have died associated with a single nursing home outside of Seattle.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was expected Wednesday to announce a temporary restriction on gatherings of over 250 people in three counties including King, which is home to Seattle, the Seattle Times reported.

“This is a microcosm of what we're going to be looking at,” Cuomo told CNN. “The numbers are going to be going up consistently because the testing is way behind the reality of what we're looking at.”

“You only have two options: quarantine or really increase the number of tests and get the positive tests and then isolate,” he added. “China was doing 5,000, 10,000 tests per day. This country in total, we've done about 5,000 tests. So we really have to get that testing capacity up if we're going to make a difference.”

Cover: Pedestrians pass New Rochelle City Hall, Tuesday, March 10, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)