Three Westchester area Jewish day schools were closed on Tuesday after a confirmed case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) was identified in a 50-year-old man in the community, with no known foreign travel. The patient is a parent at SAR Academy in Riverdale, and had recently traveled to Miami. After being diagnosed at Lawrence Hospital, he was moved to Columbia University Medical Center in Washington Heights, becoming the first confirmed in-patient case in a New York City hospital. His Hebrew name is Eliezer Yitzchak ben Shifra.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker held a press conference about the case on Tuesday morning.
The information prompted SAR to close its elementary and high schools as a precautionary measure. Nearby Westchester Day School and Westchester Torah Academy also closed its doors, with school officials indicating they would continue to be in touch with the Westchester County Health Department and the White Plains Public School District.
“At this time it’s important to remain calm and to please continue following the preventative measures,” wrote Rabbi Binyamin Krauss and Rabbi Tully Harcsztark, in a letter to school families.
The repercussions can be felt beyond the Westchester community as Yeshivat Noam, in Bergen County, sent out a letter to its parent body informing them of their concerns. “Although last night, our sixth grade boys played a basketball game in SAR, after speaking with medical professionals, the New Jersey department of health and the SAR administration, we have been informed that we do not need to close school or keep anyone out of school.”
Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt, speaking on behalf of the Rabbinic Alliance of America, reminded the community that the CDC does not recommend that people who are well to wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. “Facemasks should only be used by lay people who have symptoms of respiratory diseases, and who must be in public—to help prevent the spread of the disease to others,” he said. “Most importantly, several great poskim have personally told me and clearly stated that one must stay home and not go to shul if you are sick with a potentially contagious respiratory illness.”