N.Y. Governor Says Coronavirus Patient Zero Cured, Urges Jews to Celebrate Passover at Home

Jewish attorney Lawrence Garbuz was the first to contract the disease in the state, which is the country's hot spot

Governor Andrew Cuomo, briefs the media inside a nearly completed makeshift hospital at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York, March 27, 2020.
Darren McGee,AP

Jewish attorney Lawrence Garbuz from the town of New Rochelle, who was New York State’s first confirmed COVID-19 patient, is out of the hospital, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference on Sunday.

“Patient zero [...] who was very sick for a very long time, has gone home,” Cuomo said with a smile.

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Garbuz emerged from a coma on Wednesday. He tested positive to the virus in early March, and was eventually connected to 37 other confirmed cases of the disease in the state, putting the Jewish community of New Rochelle at the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in New York

The Young Israel of New Rochelle synagogue, which Garbuz attended, was forced to close after his diagnosis and a one-mile containment zone was set up around it.

As Passover approached, Cuomo urged the Jewish community not to hold gatherings to celebrate the holiday

“It’s hard,” he said. “But on the flip side I say look at what happened in New Rochelle: those gatherings that brought people together were religious gatherings [Purim parties] and brought hundreds of people together, which was beautiful, but made a lot of people ill.”

“Density is the enemy here,” he said. “Worship the way you can, but the gatherings are just not a good idea.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned city synagogues last week that if they continue to hold services and violate lockdown rules, they may be shut down permanently.

“I want to say to all those who are preparing the potential of religious services this weekend: If you go to your synagogue, if you go to your church and attempt to hold services after having been told so often not to, our enforcement agents will have no choice but to shut down those services,” de Blasio told a virtual press conference live streamed on Friday. 

"I don’t say that with any joy. It’s the last thing I want to do, because I understand how important people’s faiths are to them, and we need our faith in this time of crisis, but we do not need gatherings that will endanger people," he said. "No faith tradition endorses anything that endangers a member of that faith."

As of Sunday afternoon, 59,513 people tested positive for COVID-19 in New York State. Of those cases, 8,503 patients are currently hospitalized, 2,037 of which are in Intensive Care Units. The death toll for New York State stood at 965 at the time of Governor Cuomo’s press conference on Sunday. 

Cuomo added that 3,572 people who had suffered from the coronavirus have been discharged from hospitals since the start of the crisis. 

New York remains by far the state hardest-hit by the coronavirus outbreak. New Jersey, also home to a large Jewish community, follows. 

JTA contributed to this report.