Le­gion­naires’ dis­ease out­break claimed 12 lives: NYC mayor


Two more peo­ple in the New York City bor­ough of the Bronx have died of Le­gion­naires’ dis­ease, bring­ing the death toll to 12 in the largest out­break of the dis­ease in New York City history, of­fi­cials said Mon­day.

There are now 113 re­ported cases of Le­gion­naires’ in the Bronx, and cool­ing tow­ers in 18 build­ings have tested pos­i­tive for the le­gionella bac­te­ria, of­fi­cials said. While clean­ing crews criss­crossed the Bronx, the con­tin­ued ten­sion be­tween state and city gov­ern­ments threat­ens to un­der­mine of­fi­cials’ ex­pres­sions of con­fi­dence that the out­break is ta­per­ing off.

The out­break has be­come the city’s most sig­nif­i­cant public health cri­sis since last fall’s Ebola scare. For more than a month now, cases of Le­gion­naires’ — a form of pneu­mo­nia es­pe­cially dan­ger­ous for the el­derly and for peo­ple with un­der­ly­ing health is­sues — have been re­ported through­out a sec­tion of the South Bronx, the city’s poor­est neigh­bor­hood.

“We are deal­ing with a new set of re­al­i­ties we have never ex­pe­ri­enced that we have never en­coun­tered be­fore in this city,” said de Bla­sio, who added that the na­tion’s largest city has had to cre­ate “a play­book” on the fly as to how to han­dle the cri­sis.

Of­fi­cials said that all but one of the 12 fa­tal­i­ties was more than 40 years old and all of them had un­der­ly­ing health prob­lems. Be­cause the dis­ease has a 10-day in­cu­ba­tion pe­riod there can be a lag in re­port­ing cases, but de Bla­sio said Mon­day that city health of­fi­cials be­lieve there hasn’t been a new di­ag­no­sis since Aug. 3.

He and City Coun­cil Speaker Melissa Mark-Viver­ito in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion that man­dates in­spec­tions of cool­ing tow­ers, which are rooftop me­chan­i­cal struc­tures used to cool large build­ings. They eject a warm mist that can carry the bac­te­ria.

As de Bla­sio spoke at the af­ter­noon news con­fer­ence, New York­ers saw a split-screen im­age on their TVs that likely did not in­spire much faith in the level of co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the city and state gov­ern­ments.

While de Bla­sio spoke at City Hall, Gov. An­drew Cuomo was hold­ing his own news con­fer­ence at his New York City of­fice on the very same sub­ject yet de­liv­er­ing dif­fer­ent in­for­ma­tion about the num­ber of build­ings where le­gionella bac­te­ria had been dis­cov­ered. Staffers with both men did not say why the of­fi­cials held sep­a­rate events.

The city and state health com­mis­sion­ers put out a joint state­ment later Mon­day say­ing that three ad­di­tional sites tested pos­i­tive over the week­end for the bac­te­ria, bring­ing the to­tal to 18.

The ear­lier mix-up — and re­sult­ing ques­tions from re­porters to the mayor about the in­con­sis­tency, which clearly ir­ri­tated de Bla­sio — was the latest chap­ter in the on­go­ing feud be­tween the mayor and gover­nor, who are both mem­bers of the city’s rul­ing cen­ter-left Demo­cratic Party and claim to be friends.

Cuomo drew de Bla­sio’s ire last week when, in a seem­ing crit­i­cism of the city’s re­sponse to the out­break, said that “we’re tak­ing mat­ters into our own hands” and or­dered state in­spec­tion teams into the Bronx. He re­it­er­ated that Mon­day.

“We have been ag­gres­sive,” Cuomo said about the state’s re­sponse. “The ag­gres­sive­ness was called for.”

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