This article has been updated throughout to add details about the attorney’s firm.
A Westchester County lawyer who works at the Midtown Manhattan law firm of Lewis and Garbuz has been diagnosed with the new coronavirus, New York state’s second known case of the virus, authorities said Tuesday.
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Health said late Tuesday that a 50-year-old attorney whose name was not given worked at Lewis and Garbuz, a trusts and estates law firm with offices at 60 E. 42nd St. that lists six lawyers on its website. The condition of the lawyer, who lives in New Rochelle and was hospitalized Feb. 27, was said by officials to be “critical,” “severe” and “serious” at various points Tuesday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference earlier Tuesday, before the law firm was named, that the afflicted attorney had respiratory issues off and on for the last month but they became “much more severe in the last few days.” He is being treated at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in Manhattan, the city said.
The mayor said “there are seven people who work at the firm who have been identified by the Department of Health as worthy of follow-up. That testing will proceed. Others who did not have that direct contact have been given broad precautions and guidance.”
No one answered the phone at Lewis and Garbuz late Tuesday and several people at the firm could not immediately be reached for comment by email.
The lawyer recently traveled to Miami but has not been to any countries, such as China or Italy, that have been hit hard by COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. The city said it wasn’t clear how the lawyer got sick, making his case “the first case of community spread in New York City.”
“Our information is the gentleman had an underlying respiratory illness and he is ill and he is hospitalized,” the governor said.
Officials said the man had been at Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville before being transferred to a hospital in Manhattan.
Demetre Daskalakis, the deputy commissioner of disease control of the NYC Department of Health, said the man first became ill Feb. 22, was admitted to a hospital Feb. 27 and transferred to his current hospital Monday. His trip to Miami was in early February, Daskalakis said.
Cuomo said a school in Riverdale attended by one of the man’s children had closed for the day. Other media outlets reported SAR Academy and SAR High School had closed in connection with the coronavirus case. Westchester County Executive George Latimer said the family has quarantined themselves at home.
Yeshiva University said on its website that the sick man’s son is an undergraduate student and said it is taking advice from authorities on protecting the school community. Another student, at Yeshiva’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, “is in self-quarantine … as a precaution,” the school said, adding that the law student “is reporting no symptoms.”
The governor said he couldn’t say whether the 50-year-old man used public transportation to get to work.
The only other person in New York diagnosed with the virus is a 39-year-old female medical worker living in Manhattan who recently returned from Iran, where more than 1,000 people have reportedly contracted the disease.
Some law firms have been taking steps to cut down on transmission risks. Latham & Watkins canceled its global partners meeting, which was set to take place this week in New York.
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe postponed its planned partner retreat in Texas, while certain Asian offices of firms including Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and Dorsey & Whitney have had their lawyers and staff working from home. Other firms, such as Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, have limited travel to China or other countries hit particularly hard by the outbreak, like South Korea or Italy.
But the latest case shows that the legal industry is still vulnerable. The Austrian law firm Wolf Theiss recently reported that one of its partners is seriously ill and has been hospitalized with the new virus. It said it had tested hundreds of other lawyers and employees and only those who test negative are in contact with clients.