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County Exec Anticipates Additional COVID Zones In Westchester

Westchester County's active COVID-19 cases, as of November 30, 2020
Courtesy of the Office of Westchester County Executive George Latimer
Westchester County's active COVID-19 cases, as of November 30, 2020

The Westchester County executive says a sharp rise in the number of active COVID-19 cases continues, and there’s a good chance the state will designate additional areas as micro-clusters.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer says the county has 6,117 active cases, up from 1,393 a month ago. As of Saturday, he says 244 people were hospitalized, nearly double the number from two weeks ago. And 15 people have died in the last week, bringing the county total number of COVID deaths to 1,515.

“The last time we had these many active cases, it was May the 3rd,” Latimer says. “And the last time we had these many people hospitalized with COVID was May 31st.”

Westchester has one orange zone, for most of the Village of Port Chester and part of the Village of Rye Brook. And yellow zone designations continue in portions of New Rochelle, Ossining, Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, Yonkers and in Peekskill.

“No additional ones were added today. We are looking to see if there’ll be action on Wednesday. It has been traditional that the state has acted to designate zones on Wednesday,” Latimer says. “And there are rumors that, with the numbers that we’re showing, the high increase in the amount of infection, that we could very likely have some additional zones structured in yellow, and we could very easily have the whole county awash as far as orange-zone consideration.”

He says high case numbers could push Mount Kisco into a zone, along with densely populated areas.

“Any of the urban centers that have not yet fallen into a zone are probably candidates for zone designation,” says Latimer.

The state’s color-coded system based on metrics goes from yellow to red, with red carrying the most stringent restrictions. In New York’s seven-day rolling average positivity rates for micro-clusters, or the color-coded zones, Westchester had the state’s two highest — 10.65 percent for Ossining and 8.43 percent for Peekskill, both yellow zones. Latimer says, after conversations with some county executives, the state issued some new guidance Monday.

“When an area goes from yellow zone into the more intense orange zone, it is not an automatic shutdown of schools. The original protocol was that yellow zone, cautionary, schools can operate under testing. Move to orange zone and, of course, red zone, you must shut the schools down. That is not the case now,” says Latimer. “They’ve put out an understanding that an orange-zone school can remain open but, over the course of a given month, they have to test 20 percent of their students and the, of course, show that the infection rate is sufficient that they can manage opening the school and maintaining it. That would be done in two, half-month intervals of 10 percent.”

Latimer says fellow Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier Monday laid out state priorities for COVID, including managing hospital capacity.

“In Westchester County, we have 3,000, in round numbers, 3,000 hospital beds; 244 patients hospitalized for COVID against an inventory of 3,000 beds is not a concern,” Latimer says. “We’ve not reached the 10 percent mark yet, so we are not at concern of overcapacity.”

Latimer was on a call Monday with hospital representatives.

“We’ve offered to work with them on the testing requirements. Many of them provide testing but not at the level of large group tests than can satisfy some of the requirements that we’re receiving. So we are going to have to help advocate through the state to allow more test kits to help accomplish the mission,” says Latimer. “We know that, as they describe, they’re experiencing a higher increase of hospitalizations, and they’re concerned about staffing, and the governor today indicated that it was important for all of the hospitals to try to survey their staff and recently departed staff to try to get as many professionals, doctors and nurses, on the available for when they might be needed.”

Latimer says the county will soon be sharing more detailed statistics from its municipalities that previously were available only to the state.

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