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Coronavirus Update: New York Now Has Highest Number Of Cases In The Country; New Rochelle Gets State's 1st Drive-Through Testing Site

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – New York has surpassed Washington to become the state with the most cases in the country, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.

The announcement came on day two of New Rochelle's one-mile containment zone while officials work to stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

More help is on the way, as Glen Island Park has been transformed into the state's first drive-through testing site.

Westchester County residents can now be swabbed without having to leave their cars, limiting the chance for exposure. It's expected to be the first of many facilities statewide.

Governor Cuomo Opens the State's First Drive-Through COVID-19 Mobile Testing Center by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on YouTube

A heavily suited healthcare worker gave a thumbs-up as the first drive-through COVID-19 testing site opened on the East Coast.

One of the first to be swabbed was the husband of Annabell Morales.

"My husband's not feeling well, he's got throat symptoms, achy and tired, and he works in the city, been commuting. He works for a Japanese bank," Morales said.

The National Guard is on hand to assist, and on the off chance, enforce the rules.

People without pre-clearance will be turned away.

"You can't just come, you have to call first, make an appointment and then come, each car is here for about 15 minutes.  The phone number is 888-364-3065.  We are prioritizing people from New Rochelle first because again that's where we want to reduce that density, reduce those cases," Cuomo said.

There are six drive-through lanes and the governor says they can handle about 200 vehicles a day.

Video from a drive-through site in Washington shows the process: Swabs will be boxed up and shipped to labs, with results back in about 24 hours. The Trump administration is allowing New York to certify its own, which means testing capacity will skyrocket in just a few days. "

"We will ramp from 5,000-10,000 at a minimum, if not higher as the need is required," said Dr. Jon Cohen, CEO of Bioreference.

With a significant cluster of confirmd COVID-19 cases in New Rochelle, people with no symptoms will want to be tested. Experts say that would waste limited resources. If you have the virus, but the so-called "viral load" is not making you sick, you're likely to test negative anyway.

"People will eventually may want to be tested to feel comfortable. We're not even close to that right now. The demand and the CDC recommendations are currently that people with significant symptoms get tested," Dr. Cohen said.

The situation is testing the resolve of New Rochelle residents, who appreciate the free food that is helping needy families at a trying time - but also trying their patience and civic pride.

"I hope that this dies down and we get back to normal because it is really embarrassing this is happening to us," said Asiyza Fellers.

Patients wanting to use the drive-through must call ahead to make an appointment at 888-364-3065.

The governor said priority will be given to New Rochelle residents and vulnerable populations, like senior citizens and people with underlying respiratory issues.


Cuomo said the state is taking a two-pronged approach: Decrease the number of people coming into contact with each other, and increase the number being tested.

"We announced yesterday we're reducing large gatherings. That's all density reduction," he told reporters. "The second leg of the strategy is testing – testing, testing, testing. You want to find the positive cases, because you want to be able to isolate those positive cases and then find out who that person may have been in touch with."

CORONAVIRUS: CDC Latest | NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text 692692 | Westchester Testing Call 1(888)-364-3065 | NJ Health Dept. | NJ Case Tracker | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211

The National Guard arrived in New Rochelle yesterday, helping distribute food to need families and children whose schools are closed.

Elsewhere in Westchester County, Yonkers public schools are closed today for cleaning and to allow teachers time to prepare for remote learning. White Plains also canceled its annual St. Patrick's Day Parade this Saturday.

Governor Cuomo Announces FDA Gives NYS Authority to Conduct all COVID-19 Testing at Labs by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on YouTube

Cuomo said Friday afternoon Trump administration has authorized New York State to set up its own testing protocol, which will greatly expand testing capacity.

"We think next week we'll go up to a capacity of about 6,000 tests per day," Cuomo said. "To date, we've done about 3,000 tests. So that's a big, big difference."

Cuomo said there were now 421 cases of coronavirus in New York State - more than any other place in the country. Cuomo says the numbers don't reflect, in his view, the actual extent of the virus in New York state and can be expected to grow dramatically once additional testing capacity is added.

Cuomo said he was issuing a number of executive orders related to the outbreak, including one barring state utilities from shutting off gas to those who haven't paid a bill due to the outbreak.

Cuomo said it was "probable" that down the line that New York would require hospitals to postpone elective surgeries in order to handle increased coronavirus caseload.

"This is not going to be a quick situation," Cuomo said. "This is months. And this is going to be everywhere."

State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said he expects the virus will be impacting New York - and beyond - for months.

Cuomo said it was impossible for people to "hermetically seal" themselves in, but reminded people that eighty percent of cases are going to self-resolve, and those with underlying health issues and the elderly need to be especially careful.

Cuomo revealed his daughter had been in precautionary self-quarantine due to possible exposure.

"The closing of schools is a very difficult decision and very complicated decision and there are pluses and minuses," Cuomo said. "A lot of children receive their breakfast and lunch at schools. How do you do that?"

Cuomo said most parents don't have "staff" to watch the kids, and therefore would have to stay home themselves.

"If the parents are going to be home, who's going to be working in my hospitals?" Cuomo said. "So it's complicated."

Decisions about school closures are local decisions except when a person in a school tests positive, at which point that school is required to close for 24 hours of an assessment.

"We don't know if closing schools will factually slow the spread," Cuomo said.

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