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Westchester County Center Starts Change To A Temporary Hospital

Westchester County Executive George Latimer delivered an update this afternoon about his county’s COVID-19 response. Latimer says the county, one of the hardest hit nationwide, is prepping for a surge in patients.

Democratic County Executive Latimer:

“The statistics that we received from Governor Cuomo today indicated there were 2, 894 positive cases of COVID-19, coronavirus here in Westchester County. 2,894 on the 23rd of March,” says Latimer. ”Our first patient was March 1.”

He says this figure is part of Monday’s numbers from the governor’s office showing 20,875 positive cases in New York. Latimer says Westchester once led New York as a COVID-19 hotspot, and New York City has now well surpassed it. Latimer breaks down the number of confirmed cases in his county, noting they are among Westchester’s cities and most populated towns..

“In Westchester County, the number of cases, as of Friday, verified cases, New Rochelle had 223, and that high number is spiked by the original grouping of what was tested that first week,” Latimer says. “Yonkers has 145 cases; Mount Vernon, 70 cases, all positive; White Plains, 54; the Town of Greenburgh, 43 cases,  and that includes the Villages of Greenburgh; Scarsdale, 35 cases;  Eastchester, 31 cases; Port Chester, 28; Cortlandt, 25; and in the Town of Mount Pleasant, 22 cases. Those are the top-ten jurisdictions in Westchester County. We believe that nearly every jurisdiction in Westchester has at least one positive case.”

The state opened a drive-through testing site in New Rochelle March 13. Latimer says Westchester Medical Center also has established a type of mobile testing center. Governor Cuomo on Monday toured construction of a temporary FEMA Hospital at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan that is slated to open next week. The state also identified a few other sites for temporary hospital services, including the Westchester County Center, which Latimer believes is appropriate.

“Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with members of the state Health Department are at the County Center. The County Center’s closed to any public access for any purposed whatsoever. It is completely now under control of the Health Department as it becomes fitted appropriately for temporary hospital services. We hope we won’t have to use it for that purpose, but we’re prepared to do that,” says Latimer. “For many people who have written us and spoken to use about other possible sites, we have made available to the state, a number of different sites in Westchester County that are either vacant or potentially useable for state purposes. The state will make the decisions as to whether any of those other sites are possibilities for it. We’ve identified the large parking lots that the county owns at the FDR site in Yorktown or in Playland parking lot in Rye as possible site for one or more activities.”  

Meantime, the Bee-Line bus system has a new policy that took effect Monday.

“We’ve made the decision to end any fares on our Bee-Line bus system. They will not operate with a fare box,” says Latimer. “And they will operate now where individuals will enter the Bee-Line buses, wherever they may be in the county, through the rear door.”

And they’ll exit through the rear door as well. And to promote social distancing, the first three rows of seats on all fixed route transit buses will be roped off to further distance passengers from drivers. There will be special accommodations for passengers with disabilities. State Senator Shelley Mayer helped raise awareness of the needed change for all the required workers who depend on Bee-Line buses.

“Those people as well as the drivers, we need to protect them,” Mayer says. “We need to ensure they get to work safely.”

Latimer says county parks remain open, as do golf courses and nature centers. County playgrounds are closed.

“Now, we’ve seen examples where there has not been social distancing. Over the weekend, on Saturday, there was a large combination of people at Kensico Dam plaza,” Latimer says. “I was there personally on Sunday, and that was a much more diffuse population. Signage is up now reminding people that the right practice behavior is to provide certain separately between you and the people you don’t know.”

Meantime, the number of COVID-19-related deaths across the river in Rockland County has risen to five and there were 623 positive cases as of Monday.

Latimer says the Westchester’s general coronavirus hotline at 2-1-1 fields up to 1,500 calls daily. With such demand, the county has set up an email in addition, covid19faq@westchestergov.com

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