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Head of NY Port Authority tests positive for coronavirus

A New York Port Authority train runs towards the World Trade Center in New York City. (Trevor Logan, Wikimedia Commons/Released)
March 09, 2020

Rick Cotton, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has tested positive for coronavirus.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Cotton’s case on Monday at a news conference reported by the New York Times. Cotton, whose agency handles all of the region’s major airports, bridges, tunnels and bus terminals is one of the most prominent U.S. officials to have contracted the illness.

Cotton had reportedly overseen much of the Port Authority’s coronavirus response and likely contracted the illness as a result of his proximity to other infected travelers.

“He has been at the airports, obviously, when many people were coming back with the virus,” Cuomo said, before suggesting Cotton may have contracted the illness at Kennedy International Airport, one of the main airports receiving international travelers.

Cotton was reportedly self-quarantined at his home and will continue to work remotely, following his coronavirus test results. Members of the Port Authority senior team, who worked closely with Cotton, were set to undergo testing for the illness, Cuomo said.

Cuomo said he also likely interacted with Cotton in recent days and weeks.

“I could have been in contact with Rick Cotton,” Cuomo said, before stating he had not tested positive for the virus.

Cotton, who is in his mid-70s, told the New York Times he had no apparent signs of the virus but was isolating himself as a result of the positive coronavirus test results. Cotton was appointed by Cuomo to lead the Port Authority and he has run the agency since 2017.

The Port Authority reportedly has more than 7,000 employees and operates major New York City airports like La Guardia, Kennedy International, and the Newark Liberty International Airport.

The state of New York has confirmed 142 coronavirus cases, New York Daily News reported. Of those New York coronavirus cases, 19, have been confirmed within New York City.

Cuomo declared a state of emergency on Saturday and called on the federal government to expedite the approval process to allow private labs to take on coronavirus testing, so as to add to New York’s coronavirus testing capacity.

“We mobilized quickly but the federal government has been slow off the mark and they continue to be slow,” Cuomo said as he announced the request for expedited federal review. “That’s unacceptable – we need them to approve these private labs today so we can stay ahead of this evolving situation. Worse than the virus right now is the fear pandemic – and getting these additional facilities online will ensure we have more facts that will help keep people calm.”