Quarantined couple to return home soon

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The Rome couple quarantined for nearly a month after they were on a cruise ship where a fellow passenger tested positive for the new coronavirus may be coming home by early next week.

Peter and Cindy Molesky got confirmation of a negative test for the virus on Tuesday, according to a video on YouTube by Cheryl Molesky and her husband Paul of Syracuse. The two couples — Peter and Paul are brothers — have been traveling together and were quarantined together. Cheryl and Paul also got negative test results Tuesday, they reported in the video.

They were on a cruise ship that called at various Asian Pacific ports since Jan. 20, then were among the 3,700 passengers quarantined at port in Yokohama, Japan, after a passenger who had disembarked in Hong Kong was found to have the virus.

The Moleskys have been quarantined at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas, since the middle of last week. They were taken there after U.S. authorities flew most of the American cruise ship passengers back to the United States on a specially outfitted chartered jet.

The Moleskys reported they can return home to central New York as soon as Monday or Tuesday.

They said they expect to get a certificate showing they have been through quarantine.

In the video and others, they describe life in quarantine. They’re staying in quarters on the base, and note that they are careful just before scheduled health checks to not to do anything that might raise their apparent body temperature, such as drink tea, exercise or shower. They note how important it is to have a protective surgical mask on when outside their room, and pass the time on things like Sudoku puzzles.

On Wednesday, Rep. Anthony J. Brindisi, D-22, Utica, called for the administration to appoint a coronavirus response coordinator along with emergency funding.

“The emerging global threat of the coronavirus requires a thoughtful, comprehensive, and bipartisan response. Public safety needs to be above politics,” Brindisi said in a statement. “America is home to the greatest researchers and scientists in the world. By working together, our country can lead the response to this global threat. This is a global issue and it will take coordination across governments to keep Americans safe at home and abroad.”

Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said state government is increasing precautionary preparations because it’s likely that the state will have cases of the coronavirus because of its international gateways.

New York is the front door internationally. We have people traveling here from all across the world,” Cuomo said during a Wednesday press conference in Albany with the state health commissioner and security and hospital officials. “No one should be surprised when we have positive cases.”

So far, New York has not had a confirmed case of the coronavirus, with 27 suspected cases testing negative for the coronavirus, with one test pending from Nassau County, Cuomo said.

See related story, page 4.

Preparations involve introducing legislation for $40 million special appropriation to make sure the state Health Department has equipment and personnel needed to respond and that it has any legal authority needed, and that agencies, hospitals and local health authorities establish standard quarantine protocols and procedures if needed.

State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker took part in a conference with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Washington Tuesday with his counterparts from most other states, Cuomo said. He noted it’s up to the federal government to decide which international arrivals need screening for the virus.

Cuomo and Zucker were joined at the afternoon press conference by representatives of the state’s Homeland Security, Emergency Management agencies and of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Greater New York Hospital Association.

Cuomo said the preparation is only precautionary should the epidemic escalate. He said the state will draw on experience with other communicable-disease outbreaks and offered perspective. So far, the COVID19 fatality rate has run about 2 percent, compared to 50 percent for Ebola, percent for SARS, and .1 or .2 percent for the far more common influenza.

New York has also asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to let it use its own Wadsworth Center lab for conducting COVID19 tests rather than have it done by a federal lab, which takes longer, Cuomo said.

Zucker said the public need not buy surgical masks since they are best saved for people with symptoms and for health-care workers, but he added that state and local governments have an ample supply even with concerns that most are made in China, by far the country hardest hit and where it appears to have originated.

The state Health Department noted that other coronaviruses are common, and that the newly discovered virus can be confirmed only through specialized tests conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Health Department advises that anyone who may have recently been to parts of the world that have had COVID-19 cases or have been in contact with someone who has and experiencing cold-like symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath to call ahead to their health care provider before seeking treatment in person.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called for $8. billion in emergency funding spread over five areas, including $2 billion to reimburse state and local governments.

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