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Westchester County Exec Talks About Storm Prep, Parties During COVID-19 Briefing

Westchester County Executive George Latimer delivered a COVID-19 briefing Monday. He covered a range of issues, including preparation ahead of Tropical Storm Isaias, which is expected to hit the region Tuesday.

Democratic Westchester County Executive George Latimer was on the phone Monday with supervisors and mayors and, separately, with Con Edison and NYSEG officials.

“Con Edison has indicated that they have 100 line crews that are currently activated. They have 150 additional crews coming on Tuesday morning and additional crews that will be requested for Tuesday evening,” Latimer says. “This was a major issue when we had the storm back in 2018, a little over two-and-a-half years ago, and Con Edison has made preparations to be prepared. NYSEG, the same situation; they have 18 lines, currently, crews currently activated on site. They have another 50 lines crews that are coming in from other areas within NYSEG, areas further north and west that do not expect to get the brunt of this action.”

In March 2018, two storms left thousands in the region without power for days, prompting Latimer to lash out at utility companies during the outages, saying there was poor response and poor communication. Since, Con Edison has taken further storm readiness measures. Con Ed provides about 80 percent of Westchester’s power. NYSEG provides power in the northern tier of the county.

Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano says the city’s Department of Public Works will provide sandbags for residents who live in low lying areas. Residents can pick up sandbags on Tuesday from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. at the Yonkers Organic Waste Yard on Nepperhan Avenue.

Meantime, Latimer says there are reports of parents hosting rather large parties and requiring a negative COVID test for entrance. Westchester County Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler cautions parents that negative COVID tests should not be used as a license for young people to party or break social distancing or mask-wearing rules during a pandemic.

“We’ve heard some stories that individuals may be hosting parties and, as a requirement of those parties, they want a negative COVID test. And, in addition to that, I’m getting a lot of calls from people who’ve traveled to highly, to densely impacted COVID-positive states that now require them to quarantine when they return, and can they get any kind of COVID test and does that make it possible for them then to not be in quarantine, to go to work or do whatever activities they normally do,” Amler says. “So, unfortunately, the answer to both of these questions is that there really is no get-out-of-jail card when it comes to COVID testing.”

She says the incubation period for COVID is 14 days.

“So, if you decided you wanted to have a party and you ask everyone to bring a negative COVID test as a way to get in the door, all that tells you is that the moment they had the test, they were negative,” Amler says. “I could go get a COVID test this morning, and, this evening, I could develop a fever and be infectious. So it’s just a moment in time.”

Latimer says he’s heard about a number of such parties.

“We’ve seen enough examples of them to know that we want to try to get the message out —Don’t do this, don’t do this,” says Latimer. “You want to have a gathering, socially distance, wear masks, you can still cluster up to a certain amount of people and use common sense.”

On another subject, Latimer says this week marks the first public forum of the Police Reform and Reimagining Task Force.

“It will held this Wednesday, August, 5, from 6 p.m. - 8 p.m.” Latimer says. “It’ll be done in person at five different locations New Rochelle, White Plains, Yonkers, Mount Kisco and Peekskill, or you can join virtually.”

Each location will allow up to 50 people. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order in June called the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative. It requires local police agencies to develop a plan that modernizes police strategies and programs based on community input. Latimer, who had announced he was forming a working group to review county police academy polices prior to the order in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, then revised the goals of the task force.

On the financial front amid fiscal woes from COVID-19, Latimer, who recently proposed a voluntary separation program, or employee buyout, says 220 county employees accepted the offer by the July 31 deadline. He says the county will calculate how much this will save and how many of the positions will have to be re-staffed. He hopes to avoid furloughs and layoffs.

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