A man reaches out for a mask at a Home Depot store in Los Angeles, California on January 22, 2020 as the Coronavirus entered the United States this week. - A new virus that has killed nine people, infected hundreds and has already reached the US could mutate and spread, China warned on January 22, as authorities urged people to steer clear of Wuhan, the city at the heart of the outbreak. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
Government officials say facemasks aren't necessary
02:30 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

For days, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that the spread of novel coronavirus to New York was imminent.

“You can’t have it in this many cases on the globe, and in this many places in the country, and it not be in New York,” the governor said.

His prediction came true. On Monday, Cuomo said the state’s first coronavirus case is a 39-year-old health care worker who had recently returned from Iran – a country with almost 1,000 cases of coronavirus and at least 54 deaths from the illness.

He described the illness as the “flu on steroids.” The woman was tested at Mt. Sinai hospital in New York City, which was notified before the patient’s arrival, Cuomo said.

She’s now in home isolation with her husband, who’s also a health care worker and is being tested for the disease.

The woman did not have any symptoms of illness when she flew back to the US last Tuesday, officials said. But authorities are contacting people on her flight and the driver of the private car service she used to get to her Manhattan home.

The woman has not used public transportation since she came back to the New York, Cuomo said.

He said the goal now is to “test as many as you can” and then isolate anyone who tests positive to help reduce the spread.

“We will have more cases, we will have community spread. That is inevitable,” Cuomo said.

But he said there’s no need to panic.

“You can’t let the fear outpace reality,” he said.

“Put this in perspective. This is not the first time we’ve dealt with this situation. We had H1N1, we had the swine flu, we had the avian flu, we went through Ebola, we went through MERS, we went through SARS. We’ve dealt with this before.”

Cuomo said the mortality rate with this virus is higher for senior citizens and those with compromised immune systems. “And that’s where we need to focus our efforts,” he said.

The governor also announced the state will institute a new cleaning protocol at schools and in the public transportation system to help stop any potential spread of the virus.

But New Yorkers shouldn’t let coronavirus hold them back from normal daily activities, said Oxiris Barbot, commissioner of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

“There’s currently no indication that it’s easy to transmit by casual contact,” Barbot said. “There’s no need to do any special anything in the community. We want New Yorkers to go about their daily lives. Ride the subway, take the bus, go see your neighbors.”

CNN’s Mirna Alsharif contributed to this report.