NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Eight hospitals in New York have been designated to treat any Ebola cases identified in the state.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that all 200 hospitals across the state are ready, but said the eight hospitals are especially prepared with go-to teams who've been drilled in anti-Ebola protocols.
"Protecting the people of this state is one of our top priorities in government and I want all New Yorkers to know that we are doing everything necessary to safeguard against the risks of Ebola,'' he said."New Yorkers should rest assured that we are taking the steps to be fully prepared for whatever the future brings."
• Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan
• NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan
• Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan
• North Shore/Long Island Jewish Health System in Nassau County
• Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx
• SUNY Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse
• Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island
• University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester
Cuomo said that starting Monday, medical experts will be dispatched to hospitals to make sure they have the needed equipment and training for possible Ebola cases.
Cuomo said he prefers that the state err on the side of caution rather than being caught unprepared. So far, there have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in the state.
"We are trying to get the entire system up to speed, but we are also developing specialized capacity and identifying certain facilities, certain workers where we can," Cuomo said during a news conference in Manhattan, alongside several agency heads.
Health officials also said they are running unannounced drills at emergency rooms around the state using people posing as patients with Ebola-like symptoms.
In addition, officials said public transportation systems including New York City subways and buses are on the alert for possible passengers carrying the virus.
MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast said the MTA already has in place protocols for dealing with the disposal and removal of infectious waste, including buses and trains so that they can be cleaned.
But the governor says New Yorkers' anxiety level is higher than the probability of the deadly virus arriving here.
Officials tried to quiet fears by saying the city is prepared and that Ebola is not the kind of disease you can get from taking the subway or walking on a crowded street.
"This is transmitted through bodily fluids, so we don't think it's a high risk of epidemic proportions. Are we going to get a case? We may. The public does not have to worry about an outbreak of Ebola in the city," Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Esposito said.
Bratton: Ebola Gear, Protocol Being Issued To Officers
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the NYPD is finalizing inventory to make sure all patrol vehicles are equipped with appropriate hazmat gear and said protocols are being issued to officers.
"Each officer will receive specific instructions as to, depending on what their assignment is, patrol officers responding, by in large, is to secure the premise, if you will, secure the patient," Bratton told WCBS 880's Rich Lamb. "Emergency service officers will be the ones that will be able to deal more intimately if there is need to come in physical contact with individuals."
Bratton said any police actions will be guided by supervision from medical officials.
In New Jersey, Middlesex State Sen. Joe Vitale wants to centralize one to three hospitals in the state to handle any possible Ebola cases.
"The average nurse, while they're highly skilled, they are not used to working in hazmat suites," he told WCBS 800's Levon Putney.
Vitale said while hospitals across the state are training to deal potential Ebola cases, he said patients "should be in a location that is isolated and quarantined where the most highly trained and highly skilled individuals will care for them."
He said Cooper University Medical Center in Camden, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick and University Hospital in Newark could be designated to handle any cases.
Vitale, who is chairman of the Senate Health Committee, said he'll hold a hearing on the matter soon.
NJ Lawmaker Wants 1-3 Hospitals To Handle Ebola Cases
Meanwhile, Newark Liberty and John F. Kennedy airports now have Ebola screenings in place for travelers arriving from the three West African countries hit hardest by the disease.
Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said no passengers being screened for the virus so far have been found to have Ebola. Those passengers are also checked before boarding flights for the U.S.
But Republican Congressman Peter King wrote a letter to Homeland Security and Border Control urging that passengers are screened even earlier, before potentially contaminating others at airports.
"Given the high volume of travelers at JFK, it is essential that extraordinary measures are taken to intercept possible Ebola-infected passengers while keeping the public, CBPOs and other first responders safe from exposure."
Ebola patients are not considered contagious until they have symptoms, which include fever, muscle pain, vomiting and bleeding.
Symptoms can appear as long as 21 days after exposure to the virus and only spreads by close contact with an infected person's bodily fluids.
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