Eight Cayuga County residents who recently traveled to countries with high rates of the new coronavirus are quarantined in their homes, including one person who has been tested for the respiratory illness.
Kathleen Cuddy, director of the Cayuga County Health Department, told The Citizen Tuesday that seven of the eight people are in precautionary quarantine, which means they traveled to China, Iran, Italy, Japan or South Korea — countries that have reported the most coronavirus cases — but aren't experiencing symptoms.
One person who has symptoms was tested Tuesday, Cuddy said. The test results won't be known for at least another day or two.
Because the person has been tested for coronavirus, they are in mandatory quarantine. Cuddy confirmed that the person is isolated in their home. The health department communicates with individuals in quarantines daily to monitor their conditions.
"They are all incredibly cooperative because they want to do the right thing and they understand the purpose behind it, so that's going well," Cuddy said.
As of Tuesday, there are 173 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in New York. Nearly all of the cases are in downstate New York. Westchester County accounts for 108 of the confirmed cases in the state.
More than 900 cases and 30 deaths have been reported in the U.S.
Symptoms of the virus include a cough, fever and shortness of breath. For most people who contract the virus, they will experience mild symptoms.
The health department is prepared if the virus spreads to central New York. Cuddy said they continue to encourage the public to practice good hygiene, such as washing hands, coughing into your sleeve and staying home when you're ill. Information is being shared with other local government entities and businesses to prevent the spread of the virus.
Cuddy revealed that the health department has provided guidance to colleges and school districts. For now, there are no mandates to close or cancel activities. The conversations have focused on what educational institutions can do to encourage good hygiene practices and prepare to respond if someone contracts the new coronavirus.
"Our biggest focus is obviously prevention, particularly for those who are at greatest risk for serious illness from the virus," Cuddy said. The groups that are vulnerable to complications include seniors and people with underlying chronic diseases.
Nationally, the availability of testing has been a challenge. Some people who have symptoms of the virus haven't been tested because healthcare providers didn't have access to testing kits.
Until this week, there was only one lab in New York — the state's Wadsworth lab — authorized to process coronavirus tests. On Monday, the federal government approved the use of other labs, including SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.
Cuddy thinks that if the virus spreads into Cayuga County, healthcare providers may need to determine whether they test someone for the illness or treat the symptoms.
"It's going to depend on how ill someone might be, similarly to the flu," she said. "A lot of times people may have it but not go (into the doctor) and be diagnosed. They treat their symptoms and stay home. We really don't know what direction that's going to go yet. There may be a benefit (to test) just to know numbers. We're learning as everybody else is. It's a very dynamic, fluid situation."
Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.
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