Amid reports of panic-buying of masks and the cancellation of Lunar New Year celebrations, many remain unconcerned about the global spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. With only a handful of confirmed cases in the United States, it was business as usual in most of the country last week — including in New York, the largest Chinese community outside of Asia.
“There’s [a case] in Washington, there’s a possible one in Jersey, I don’t really have any concerns at this moment,” said Donald Hom, 52, a Manhattan Chinatown resident. The potential case in New Jersey was later determined to be unrelated to the coronavirus.
Believed to have jumped from animals to humans at a market, the Wuhan coronavirus was first reported in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The Chinese government placed the region under quarantine, but not before the virus managed to spread around the world. Cases have since been reported from Australia to France to Canada.
Though there hasn’t been a confirmed case in New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio cautioned residents that it is not a matter of if, but when the virus will appear here.
“It’s probably here already, that’s the sad reality,” de Blasio told NY1. “We have to expect to see this here.”
The mayor’s warning doesn’t seem to have impacted daily life in Chinatown or elsewhere. Hom’s older brother, John Hom, 54, said his holiday plans weren’t changing. The two were on their way home to prepare food on the eve of the Chinese new year.
“Really, if they do their job at the border and check for fevers, I’m not that concerned right now. It’s [mostly] in Asia right now,” said the elder Hom.
New York’s JFK airport was one of the first to begin screening passengers for possible signs of the new illness. This precaution has since expanded to 20 airports nationwide, including Miami International where the CDC is prepared to screen certain passengers at the quarantine station located in Terminal D.
“This is a rapidly evolving situation, and we are still in the early days of the investigation – both domestically and abroad,” said the CDC in a statement. “CDC is leaning forward with an aggressive public health response strategy and working closely with state and local public health authorities to identify potential cases early and make sure patients get the best and most appropriate care.”
With such a small number of cases in the U.S., the chances of contracting the coronavirus are slim. The CDC recommends everyday preventative measures effective against any respiratory virus, such as washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, avoiding close contact with sick people and refraining from touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.