Coronavirus New York Update: Two Confirmed Cases, Flight Cancellations, Prevention Tips and More

After New York City confirmed its first case of COVID-19, local officials took measures to prevent the spread of the virus as British Airways canceled flights to the Big Apple.

City officials said on Sunday that a woman who recently traveled to Iran tested positive locally for the virus. Two days later, Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed during a press conference that a second person in the state has the virus.

"There is no doubt that there will be more cases where we find people who test positive. We said early on it wasn't a question of if but when," Cuomo said. "This is New York, we're a gateway to the world."

The newest case involved a 50-year-old man from New Rochelle in Westchester County, just north of New York City. He works in the city, and officials are engaging in contact tracing to determine potential future cases. One of his children attends Salanter Akiba Riverdale High School, a private Jewish school in the Bronx, and Cuomo said the school was closed because of possible exposure.

Unlike the first case, where the woman was able to quarantine herself at home, this man has respiratory conditions, according to the governor, and had to be hospitalized. Despite a second case, the governor said that the risk to the public remains low.

As a precautionary measure, however, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which falls under Cuomo's jurisdiction, began systemwide enhanced daily cleaning for subway stations, train cars and buses. Cleaners will disinfect "high-touch surfaces," including poles, handrails, seats and benches, every 72 hours, according to the MTA. These measures could cause people to smell bleach, an odor that Cuomo said should not cause concern among the public.

To further protect against the virus, the MTA advises people to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer. Also, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and contact with people who are sick. Those who are sick are encouraged to stay home.

As of Monday, 32 people in New York state were under investigation, meaning they showed symptoms associated with COVID-19 and possibly had close contact with a patient or a relevant history of travel to affected areas. Thirty people in New York state have already tested negative for the virus, and the state Department of Health was awaiting test results for one person in New York City.

coronavirus nyc update cases flight cancellations prevention
People wear surgical masks in Flushing, a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens, on February 3. On Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed there was a second case of COVID-19 in the state. Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty

On Monday, British Airways announced that it was reducing service from London's Heathrow Airport to New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. The airline told Newsweek it canceled 12 round-trip flights in March—24 flights total—because of low demand caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

British Airways previously canceled flights to Beijing and Shanghai, China, the origin country of the outbreak, until April 17.

Along with China, where the vast majority of cases have been identified, parts of Italy are dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19, prompting American Airlines and Delta to cancel flights from JFK to Milan. American Airlines' flights to and from Milan are expected to resume on April 25, and Delta's will follow soon after on May 1.

Two families in Buffalo, New York, that traveled to parts of Italy that are experiencing an outbreak are being quarantined in their homes and tested for the virus.

Although the 39-year-old woman took measures to limit contact with other people, officials will be contacting everyone on her flight from Iran, Cuomo said. In addition, her husband, who was with her on the plane, is being tested. The governor added that officials are "assuming" he will test positive, so he was under the same protocols as his wife. The couple was self-quarantining at their home in New York City.

Iran has had 978 cases of COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization, and 54 deaths, the most reported outside of China. To prevent the virus from spreading to the U.S. from Iran, Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday that foreign nationals who visited Iran within the past 14 days will be barred from entering America.

At this point, Cuomo said, the challenge was to test as many people as possible to limit the virus from spreading. Testing, he said, will have a "dramatic impact" on the ability of the city and state to respond to an outbreak. Cuomo added that in dealing with such an outbreak, this wasn't officials' "first rodeo."

"Late last night, my daughter called me, and I could hear in her voice she was anxious," the governor said during Monday's press conference. "My daughter said, 'Don't tell me to relax. Tell me why I should be relaxed,' which is a very big difference. So I want to make sure I tell the people of New York what I told my daughter: In this situation, the facts defeat fear because the reality is reassuring. It is deep breath time."