Purple ribbons hang outside of the Young Israel of New Rochelle synagogue in New Rochelle, N.Y., on Tuesday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
March 11 (UPI) -- The epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in New York state is located about 20 miles northeast of Manhattan in Westchester County, where health officials and residents are preparing for a two-week lockdown in a "containment zone" ordered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The governor created the zone on Tuesday and mobilized National Guard troops to New Rochelle, where the vast majority of New York's 173 COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed.
A one-mile radius within the city of 74,000 people designates the "containment zone," which was recommended to Cuomo by state health officials including New York Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.
Cuomo said he agreed with the recommendation, and ordered the containment zone to surround the virus' epicenter -- a New Rochelle synagogue -- to begin Thursday and last until at least March 25.
"The largest cluster of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country is located in New Rochelle," Cuomo said Tuesday. "And as the numbers continue to go up we need a special public health strategy to contain it.
"We are moving from containment to mitigation, and because much of the transmission of this disease tends to happen on a geographic basis, we are attacking this hotspot at the source."
The wife of an attorney who regularly attends the city's Young Israel synagogue said her husband was among the first confirmed coronavirus patients in the state. And he unknowingly spread the infection at the synagogue, she said.
Under the new emergency restrictions, residents in New Rochelle will be able to walk freely and business will operate as normal, but large gatherings inside the zone are prohibited. The order affects several public and private schools, houses of worship and institutions in the city's Wykagyl neighborhood.
New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson said the lockdown is not a "quarantine" or "exclusion zone," and stressed that it doesn't apply to individual residents or businesses. She said the city is now putting together a list of facilities inside the zone that will be directly affected by the emergency measures, but sought to reassure residents New Rochelle isn't undergoing a militarization.
"It's not as though New Rochelle is going to become a militarized community," she said. "We're not going to have checkpoints."
National Guard troops will help distribute meals to students, but, the mayor added, they "will not be engaged in military or policing functions."
About 160 miles northeast of New Rochelle, officials in Boston said they have determined the epicenter of Massachusetts cases appears to be a business gathering last month.
Nearly 200 executives attended the Feb. 26 conference at a Boston hotel. All but 12 of the state's 92 confirmed cases are linked to the conference, officials said.