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Opera House Hotel slams mayor for Legionnaires' blame as cases hit 119

There are four more confirmed Legionnaires' disease cases in the South Bronx, bringing the total to 119, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wedsnesday.

The death toll still stands at 12, he said, and the number of patients with Legionnaires' who have been treated and discharged from area hospitals has increased to 88.

City officials were waiting Wednesday for test results to confirm their assertion that the boutique Opera House Hotel in the South Bronx is the origin of the outbreak and the contamination of a cluster of more than 30 buildings that have since been decontaminated.

RELATED: Mayor of San Juan stayed at hotel at council speaker's urging.

|<image-caption><p>A petri dish view of Legionnella colonies.</p></image-caption>|Reuters

The owner of the hotel, which has been seen as a symbol of the long-beleaguered South Bronx's transformation, is furious at de Blasio and the city health chief, Dr. Mary Bassett, for the fingerpointing.

Officials said a cooling tower atop the hotel is the culprit.


The Empire Hotel Group has said two people at the hotel caught the disease but are not among the 12 fatalities.

Hotel vice president Glenn Isaacs had accused City Hall Monday of leaking a story to The Times that the hotel's cooling tower is blamefor the South Bronx outbreak.

"It's outrageous that these officials would offer little more than speculation to theTimes, while admitting in the same article that the information could be wrong," he wrote. "We are deeply concerned that there has been a rush to judgment as part of some game of one-upmanship between City and State officials."

RELATED:Legionnairres' on Rikers Island.

Bassett has publicly been quite definitive, telling reporters a blunt "Yes" when asked if the hotel was the source.

|<image-caption><p>The Opera House Hotel in the South Bronx</p></image-caption>|GoogleEarth

Isaacs had also complained about a lack of communication.

"When we have heard from city officials, they have been low level people who called to tell us they don't have access to information," he said. "It has been a frustrating experience, to say the least."

But late Tuesday, he said in a statement: "We now have better if incomplete information about the potential of Legionnaires' disease at our hotel."

De Blasio, who has gotten increasingly testy with reporters about coverage of his handling of the outbreak, on Tuesday lectured the press corps for even asking him about Isaacs' concerns.

"I'm sorry he's upset," he said, urging everyone to see the "bigger picture."

"I would think anyone who owns any of these buildings first concern would be for the health and welfare of their fellow New Yorkers," he said at a Bronx senior center.

Speaking Wednesday at an East Village public school, he praised Bassett and the Department of Health's handling of the crisis.

He said federal health officials "have praised our effiorts," but acknowledged the city has learned it must "do better community outreach."

He also insisted that he and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are not at odds and are working hand-in-glove on the outbreak.

John A. Oswald is editor-at-large at Metro and can be found on Twitter@nyc_oz.
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