Health Experts Address Concerns Over Coronavirus, Traveling Students

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The worldwide spread of the coronavirus is causing medical experts here in the U.S. to keep a close eye on its impact.

In Connecticut, there have been several people tested and the results were negative. Medical experts say they're ready if a confirmed case does appear.

“What we need to do now is really follow the situation closely. We need to prepare our hospital, our healthcare system, our physicians and nurses to make sure we know how to safely care for these patients,” said Dr. Richard Martinello.

Martinello spoke at a news conference Friday at Yale New Haven Hospital with health experts from around the state.

He was joined by State Epidemiologist Dr. Matt Cartter, who says now that awareness of the coronavirus is growing, people should be not stereotype those who are traveling from China.

“There are many Chinese students at our universities and there are now many Chinese students at private high schools in Connecticut,” said Cartter. “We’ve already heard that some private schools are excluding them for 14 days after their arrival when the CDC has made no such recommendation.”

He added the state has gotten calls about Chinese people working at casinos.

“We all need to take a breath,” said Cartter.

The concern over the coronavirus comes at a time when the state is being hit hard by the flu virus. More than 1,000 people have had the flu in Connecticut, and 23 have died.

“I believe all hospitals in Connecticut are struggling right now,” said Yale New Haven Health President Richard D'Aquila of the increased number of patients that include those seeking flu treatments. “On many days, particularly during the week an excess of 100 people can be waiting in our emergency department for beds.”

With seven confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., there are plans in case the virus does make it here to Connecticut while the flu season is expected to continue for several more months.

“We are able to really scale up and identify more places to care for patients and care for them safely.”

While the medical community prepares, people who spoke with NBC Connecticut say they’re also keeping a close eye on how the virus moving.

“There’s a concern but personally I’m not too worried,” said Mohammad Shazeb, a Yale student. “You know, you just want to take precautions the daily precautions for like a regular flu.”

Students on campus say they’re being cautious.

“I think everybody is of aware of it and really double checking what their having and being really conscious of taking care of themselves,” Cinthia Zavala, also a Yale student.

Their caution comes after a student at Yale’s model U.N. conference started showing signs of the flu.

“Right when he started exhibiting symptoms we just canceled everything,” said Yale student Brian Zhu.

That student tested negative for the coronavirus.

“We have not seen any coronavirus, the novel coronavirus here in the state of Connecticut,” said Martinello.

He says now that there has been one confirmed case of person-to-person contact in Chicago, they are keeping a close watch on the virus’ progression

“Once we start to see that then we know it’s going to continue to spread and potentially have significant impact in the United States. We don’t know if that’s going to happen yet,” said Martinello.

So far American, Delta and United Airlines have all canceled flights to and from China into the spring. 

“I think that’s a great idea because you don’t want it coming or going into the states,” said Katelyn Carson.

And if it does arrive here in Connecticut, doctors at Yale say they’ll be ready.

“We are carefully following the situation keeping close eye on our patients to ensure that if we do have someone come in with that coronavirus we can care for them safely,” said Martinello

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