Rick Cotton, one of the most important officials to oversee the response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in the northeastern United States, entered self-quarantine Monday at his home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan after having been diagnosed with the illness.
The head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is in charge of the New York area airports, bridges, tunnels and bus terminals – and it was in that capacity, said NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, that he most likely contracted the virus.
“He has been at the airports, obviously, when many people were coming back with the virus,” Cuomo said at a news conference, noting that Cotton had been at JFK International Airport, which was “one of the main airports for people coming in on those overseas flights.”
Cotton is in his mid-70s. He told reporters that he is feeling fine and has no obvious symptoms of the virus at present. His wife has also tested positive for the virus and is likewise working from home in quarantine.
At present there are 142 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York State, according to The New York Times database: it’s the state with the highest number of cases in the country, but has no fatalities. Last Friday Governor Cuomo declared a state of emergency, triggering the release of funds to be used for expansion of testing and purchase of items such as masks and protective gear for healthcare workers.
New Jersey Governor Philip Murphy declared a state of emergency on Monday in order to release state benefits to help contain the epidemic. Murphy said Tuesday that patients whose state insurance plans covered testing for the virus would not be responsible for co-payments for the testing. The state urged private insurance plans to step up and match the initiative.
In New Jersey, the first person to die in the northeast from the illness is a 69-year-old man from Bergen County with an underlying medical condition. He was one of 15 people who tested positive for the coronavirus in New Jersey. Six were from Bergen County.
At least 802 people in 36 states across the US and Washington DC had been diagnosed with the virus by Tuesday afternoon, which had killed at least 27 people. Five nursing homes are now affected by the illness in Washington State, where 19 people have died in nursing homes from the virus.