Panic over coronavirus hits Queens as city shoots down rumor of spread to borough

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The city is emphatically denying reports that a patient has been confirmed with having novel coronavirus at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst.

The reports were based on an internal NYPD memo that was sent to eight precincts in Queens just before 2 a.m., Friday, Jan. 31, saying an Asian man in his 50s was admitted to the Elmhurst hospital with the illness.

“That area is densely populated,” the memo said. “Everyone who came in contact with this person before the hospital should be notified via a public announcement so they can be screened. It’s reckless that the public hasn’t been notified.”

Sources tell QNS that this information was transmitted to all NYPD officers in northern Queens.

City Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot took to Twitter to refute the report, saying, “This is not accurate,”  in all capital letters.

She went on to add that “there are still zero confirmed cases” of the novel coronavirus in New York City. A City Hall spokesman confirmed to QNS that the report was untrue.

QNS reached out to the NYPD for comment on the internal memo and is awaiting a response.

Queens has been on edge about the spread of the deadly virus because of the borough’s diversity and access to foreign travelers via JFK International Airport. The Centers for Disease Control entry screening program began at JFK International Airport for passengers arriving from the city of Wuhan but so far no passenger has required further evaluation.

In China, which is Ground Zero for the contagion, the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases has risen to 9,782 in mainland China, according to Chinese authorities. The new cases in China bring the global total to nearly 10,000 cases with at least 213 deaths as of Friday morning.

The CDC said that the virus is “a serious public health threat” in the United States.

“The fact that this virus has caused severe illness and sustained person-to-person spread in China is concerning, but it’s unclear how the situation in the United States will unfold at this time.”

Additional reporting by Tim Bolger.

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