Great Britain

New York’s Covid ‘patient zero’ says he objects to being called a super-spreader

The lawyer once known as “Patient Zero” of New York’s coronavirus epidemic says he now appreciates life more than ever - as long as you don’t call him a super-spreader.

“Somebody said to me, in all of this there were touches of humanity?” he told the Journal. “I said, just the opposite! There was almost all humanity, with only touches of inhumanity.”

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Lawrence Garbuz, 51, said he knows several people who got sick before he did, and believes the virus was already spreading in his suburban town, New Rochelle, by the time he caught it.

But it was Garbuz’s harrowing experience with Covid-19, at a time when few New Yorkers had even heard of the virus, that caught national attention. On February 27, 2020, Garbuz was hospitalized with severe breathing problems, and was put into a medically induced coma. On March 2, his family was told he had COVID. The story made national headlines. Governor Andrew Cuomo dubbed Garbuz “Patient Zero” and New Rochelle a “containment area.”

On March 13, Garbuz awoke from his coma and could breathe again - but the world around him had transformed.

“You think Rip Van Winkle had a hard time,” he told the Journal. “I wake up and there’s a pandemic. There’s fear in people’s eyes.”

By mid-March, New York was under lockdown, and Manhattan offices like the one Garbuz normally commuted to had sent workers home to work remotely. Fear of the virus gripped the state and the country.

Fortunately, at this point Garbuz knew more about that virus than most people. Now that his name was known throughout the country, people who had COVID or knew someone who did called Garbuz for advice. He was happy to help.

“If you’re able to sit and talk to somebody and listen, that in itself is very therapeutic,” Garbuz said. “I think that we will get through this whole pandemic, when we listen more than we speak.’’

Meanwhile, Garbuz’s wife, Adina Lewis, counseled people whose spouses had been infected.

She now looks back at that period jokingly as “our 15 minutes of fame.” Some on social media misguidedly blamed her husband - who was not the first New Yorker infected - for causing the outbreak in New York. But most of the messages they received were supportive, Lewis said.

“Somebody said to me, in all of this there were touches of humanity?” she told theJournal. “I said, just the opposite! There was almost all humanity, with only touches of inhumanity.”

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