The Westchester County executive says a pattern of a higher number of COVID-19 cases continues but has not neared crisis status. Separately, he says the county is prepared for any issues regarding election security and rallies.
During his weekly briefing, Democratic County Executive George Latimer said there are 1,470 active cases as of Sunday — a number that was more than 7,600 at the end of April, north of 1,200 cases at the end of May and down to fewer than 500 each month for June, July and August.
“The numbers are not giving us comfort. They’re not spiking the way they were in the spring, but they’re not flat and they’re not continuing to go down,” Latimer says. “And the way I put it last week, and I’ve repeated this line a few times every week, we’re not fearmongering and we’re not sugarcoating it. We’re trying to give a realistic picture of where we are as befits some of those numbers.”
He says the infection rate has now ticked up to 2 percent Sunday, from 0.9 percent from Labor Day weekend.
“It has not reached a number that’s in the high single digits to be at a point where we have to start shutting things down, but it is significantly above where we were two months ago,” says Latimer.
He says 51 people were hospitalized for COVID as of October 31. Turning to Election Day, Latimer says the county and its law enforcement are prepared for any security issues.
“In terms of protecting going forward, we are not alarmist. We do not think people should be boarding up windows; we hear about this stuff. We saw how Westchester handled itself during the spring and the various justice rallies after the death of George Floyd. And there were plenty of rallies, 30 rallies, 40 rallies. None of them turned into violence. None of them turned into looting, None of them turned into shooting or anybody being injured or conflict, direct physical conflict between police officer and protestor, none of them,” Latimer says. “We’ve just seen over the course of the last couple of weeks political caravans on behalf of one of the candidates. We’re going to be apolitical in this context. Those caravans honking horns, meeting at Playland, coming up to Boston Post Road, coming down from Brewster to Peekskill. No confrontations in Westchester County.”
And he commented on early voting turnout in the county.
“We had a terrific result from early voting — 152,000 people came out to vote in advance, and that roughly is about 36 percent of the people who voted in the prior presidential election,” says Latimer. “So all the voters in 2016, 420,000-plus Westchester voters who voted, 36 percent of that total voted, not necessarily the same people, voted in the nine days of early voting.”
Latimer also urged voters who still have absentee ballots in hand to drop them off at their polling places Election Day, and they don’t have to wait in line, or they can drop them at the county Board of Elections in White Plains. Meantime, on Sunday, a caravan of President Trump supporters blocked the Mario Cuomo Bridge, which runs between Westchester and Rockland Counties. Latimer says the bridge is under state police jurisdiction.
“Where the county police had jurisdiction — Playland, Playland Parkway — where caravans either clustered or met, there were no arrests. There were no tickets authorized or given or what have you,” Latimer says. “So we, as a county police department, no particular interaction with any of the folks who were rallying.”
“What happened on the bridge was far more severe than anything that happened on the ground in Westchester County yesterday, so there’s really no comparable. There wasn’t a similar group of people on the Boston Post Road or on Route 9 in Hastings or something like that,” Latimer says. “So what happened on the bridge was different, and it was part of some part of regional realities, which I read about in New Jersey, in Connecticut and so forth, but those actions to stop traffic did not occur in Westchester.”
Democratic state Senator David Carlucci described the behavior on the bridge as “aggressive, dangerous and reckless” in terms of people exiting their cars and causing traffic backups.