New York governor implements 'containment area' around state's coronavirus cluster

The state is deploying the National Guard to New Rochelle, which became a coronavirus hot spot after a resident was diagnosed with the virus last week.

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By Elizabeth Chuck

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday he is implementing a "containment area" around a one-mile radius in the city of New Rochelle, where there is a growing cluster of coronavirus cases.

The plan involves closing schools and other large gathering facilities, such as houses of worship, within the zone for two weeks starting Thursday, he said. Businesses such as grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open.

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The state plans to deploy the National Guard to the area to assist with deep-cleaning of schools and delivering food to residents who are under quarantine at home, Cuomo added.

“The numbers are going up unabated, and we do need a special public health strategy," Cuomo said.

The New Rochelle, N.Y. containment Zone.Office of Andrew Cuomo

New Rochelle, which is just north of New York City, became a coronavirus hot spot after a resident was diagnosed with the virus last week. The man, an attorney who works near Manhattan's Grand Central Terminal, was later linked to dozens of other confirmed cases, including members of his family and members of the New Rochelle synagogue he attends, which is in the containment zone.

A self-quarantined resident who claims to have tested positive for COVID-19 listens beside his window as volunteers perform a Purim reading from the Book of Esther on March 9, 2020, in New Rochelle, N.Y.John Minchillo / AP

Cuomo called New Rochelle "the most significant cluster in the country" of the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 700 people nationwide and killed 28. Washington state has the highest number of deaths at 23.

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In New York state, 173 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed. Westchester County, where New Rochelle is, had 108 coronavirus cases as of Tuesday afternoon.

Cuomo said the containment zone was an emergency measure recommended by state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. The containment is not a lockdown; those who are not quarantined can leave their homes.

Disease containment is a response to public health emergencies that dates back to tuberculosis outbreaks in this country, according to Tener Goodwin Veenema, a professor of nursing and public health at Johns Hopkins University.

"It's all part of trying to slow or stop transmission of disease and to mitigate or reduce the ultimate impact of disease on the affected community."

"It's all part of trying to slow or stop transmission of disease and to mitigate or reduce the ultimate impact of disease on the affected community," she told NBC News.

"The challenge with the coronavirus, of course, is that it's new and has not been seen in the population before, so we do not have a clear and distinct epidemiological picture of what the disease is. We're still trying to figure out the period of incubation, modes of transmission, the risk profile," Goodwin Veenema said. "In the absence of that type of epidemiological and clinical data, we are forced to make decisions with our best intentions to try to limit that transmission of disease."

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