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NY: statewide the number of coronavirus cases rises to 44

Office of NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo

ALBANY (AP)  The rabbi of a suburban New York synagogue grappling with the coronavirus outbreak has tested positive for the illness, as the number of cases related to an infected congregant climbed higher Friday.

Rabbi Reuven Fink, of the Young Israel of New Rochelle temple, is among the 44 confirmed cases in the state, according to a statement posted Friday on the website of Yeshiva University, where Fink teaches two courses. The state confirmed 22 new cases Friday, doubling the number from a day earlier.

"I can now reassure you that it is possible, Thank G-d, to get through this virus without a special vaccine. I have the virus and am doing reasonably well," Fink wrote in an email to synagogue members, according to a letter  posted  online. "But I must caution all of you who have had personal contact with me to seek counsel from your health practitioner as to how to proceed."

Many members of Fink's congregation were asked to self-quarantine earlier in the week after the hospitalization of a person in the synagogue's community, a 50-year-old lawyer who works in Manhattan. Since then, a growing number of friends and relatives of the lawyer have tested positive.

Most of the new cases announced Friday were connected to the Westchester case or were suspected of being related to it, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governor said the cases from that suburban county included a 7-year-old boy and an 82-year-old man.

The list of new cases connected to the Westchester case includes a person in New York City, three members of the congregation, two friends, two people in nearby Rockland County who worked at a bat mitzvah at the synagogue and three cases related to the lawyer's initial hospitalization in Westchester County, according to Cuomo.

Officials in Rockland County said the man and woman there were at home and doing well.

Three cases announced late Friday from Nassau County are also suspected of being related to an existing case.

Fink had isolated himself as a precaution earlier in the week, telling congregants in a Facebook posting that following the quarantine order is "a sacred obligation that we all must take very seriously."

The upper Manhattan campus of Yeshiva University was already closed through Friday because the stricken lawyer's son is a student there and has also tested positive for the virus. The university said it was advising Fink's students to self-quarantine until further notice.

The synagogue's website says it is closed through Sunday.

Cuomo said about 4,000 people across the state are in a precautionary quarantine, all but 300 in New York City and Westchester County. Another 44 people were in mandatory quarantine.

Cuomo said the lesson from the suburban outbreak is how easily the virus can spread when people gather.

"You can have one large gathering — 400, 500 people in a gathering — and you can infect a number of people," Cuomo said.

Health officials had said earlier that people who attended services at the suburban synagogue on Feb. 22, and a funeral and a bat mitzvah on Feb. 23, must self-quarantine until at least Sunday.

There were scattered school closings in the region amid fears of a wider spread of the virus. Two elite private schools in Manhattan, the all-girls Spence and the all-boys Collegiate, closed Friday because a family associated with the schools was being monitored for the coronavirus.

Cuomo said the state is now able to perform about 500 tests a day.

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