Gov. Andrew Cuomo has formally declared a state of emergency in New York over an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, which had infected 76 individuals in the state as of Saturday afternoon.
Speaking to reporters in the state capitol Saturday, Cuomo said the declaration will give the state power to more quickly hire staff and buy supplies to respond to the disease.
“It allows expedited purchasing and expediting hiring, which are the things we need now,” Cuomo said. “The purchasing requirements, some of the purchasing protocols are waived during an emergency declaration.”
That includes help for local health departments, which have been tasked with testing for the disease as part of the state’s response to the outbreak.
New York state has, so far, allocated $40 million toward its response to a wider outbreak of COVID-19. The federal government, this week, set aside $35 million for New York out of an $8.3 billion appropriations bill approved to address the disease.
Cuomo, who called the $35 million allocation from the federal government “insufficient,” said he spoke Saturday to Rep. Nita Lowey, a Democrat from the lower Hudson Valley who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, about getting more money for New York.
Lowey, Cuomo said, told him that she would continue to push for additional funding for New York.
“She’s very effective as a legislator, and I went through the situation with her and she said this is just a starting point and she will work deliberately to make our case to the federal government,” Cuomo said.
He also warned stores that their licenses could be revoked if they’re found by the state to have price-gouged medical supplies, or other items sought in response to an outbreak. Cases reported to the state will be referred to the state Attorney General’s Office, he said.
The state has now set up a hotline for individuals to report those cases: 1 (800) 697-1220.
Cuomo also said websites like Facebook and eBay should closely monitor activity on their websites for instances of price-gouging, either by retailers or individuals.
"I would ask eBay and Facebook ... just act as good corporate citizens and police your own websites and what you're offering people,” Cuomo said.
It’s been less than a week since the first case of the novel coronavirus was reported in New York. That individual has since been in quarantine.
But the second positive case, an attorney from Westchester County, appears to be the one that’s led to the widest spread.
According to Cuomo, 57 of New York’s 76 positive cases of the disease have been found in Westchester County. The remaining have been found in New York City, Rockland County, Nassau County, and Saratoga County.
The two cases out of Saratoga County were new, as of Saturday, and are the first cases to be reported north of Westchester County.