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First Coronavirus Death in New Jersey Is 69-Year-Old Man


A 69-year-old New Jersey man who on Tuesday became the first person in the Northeast to die after contracting the coronavirus had gone to his doctor last week complaining of a fever and a cough, officials said.

He was treated with antibiotics and Tamiflu, an antiviral medication given to alleviate flu symptoms, but did not respond.

The man, who lived in Little Ferry, a small Bergen County town about 20 miles northwest of Manhattan, was admitted to Hackensack University Medical Center on Friday.

He was tested for coronavirus on Saturday, and the test came back positive on Tuesday, the state’s health commissioner, Judith Persichilli, said at a briefing soon after learning of the man’s death.

He had a history of health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure and emphysema and went into cardiac arrest on Monday night but was revived, Ms. Persichilli said.

On Tuesday morning, he had a second heart attack, this one fatal. Officials did not name the man.

“Our thoughts and prayers are of course with the family,” Ms. Persichilli said.

The man had no history of travel outside the United States, but had gone back and forth between New Jersey and New York, she said.

He was one of 15 people who had tested positive for the coronavirus in New Jersey. Another 31 people remained under investigation for the virus on Tuesday afternoon and 20 tests were being processed, state health officials said.

Six of the 15 people who have tested positive for coronavirus have been from Bergen County, the state’s most populous county, which sits across the Hudson River from New York. At least two cases there have been linked to an outbreak of the virus in New Rochelle, N.Y.

The Bergen County executive, James J. Tedesco III, issued an emergency order on Tuesday giving enhanced powers to county agencies and closed two senior facilities to visitors. He also banned all work-related travel by county employees to places where people have tested positive for coronavirus.

Bergen County Technical Schools, which enroll students from throughout the sprawling county, will close on Wednesday through next week, officials said. The county’s community college will remain closed through March 22.

“We are going to get through this,” said the mayor of Little Ferry, Mauro D. Raguseo. “We are a resilient town.”

Because the man’s positive test was returned on Tuesday, county health officials said they had only just begun to collect information about his travel patterns and family contacts, and had not determined how he might have become infected with the virus.

Across the country, at least 802 people in 36 states and Washington, D.C., have tested positive for coronavirus as of Tuesday afternoon, according to a New York Times database, and at least 27 patients with the virus have died.

Two people have died from coronavirus in Florida, but the Bergen County man is believed to be the first death in the Northeast.

At least 10 counties in New Jersey have cases under investigation, including Sussex, the state’s northernmost county, Camden, which is east of Philadelphia, and Burlington, the state’s largest county that stretches across the state from east to west.

Still, Ms. Persichilli said there is no indication of “community spread.”

“You may have more cases,” Ms. Persichilli said, “but it might not necessarily qualify as community spread.”

Gov. Philip D. Murphy on Monday declared a state of emergency to ramp up efforts to limit the spread of the virus. And on Tuesday, he announced that patients covered by state insurance plans would not be responsible for co-payments associated with coronavirus testing in emergency rooms, urgent care centers or doctors’ offices. The state is also encouraging insurance plans offered by private companies to waive co-payments for coronavirus testing.

“We remain vigilant to doing all we can — across all levels of government — to protect the people of New Jersey,” Mr. Murphy and Sheila Y. Oliver, the lieutenant governor, said in a joint statement.

In New York, state officials have created a one-mile radius zone in New Rochelle, in Westchester County, where schools and other buildings will be forced to close and the National Guard will be deployed. There were 108 patients with the virus in Westchester on Tuesday — most of them in New Rochelle, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said.

At least two of New Jersey’s cases have been linked to the New Rochelle cluster, including a 55-year-old man from Englewood who has the virus and attended a conservative conference last week in Washington, D.C., where President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spoke.

The state’s epidemiologist, Dr. Christina Tan, said Tuesday she expects that more than two cases will ultimately be linked to the New Rochelle cluster.

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