While not calling it a second wave, the Westchester County executive says a recent increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases is concerning. Part of the climb is attributed to an outbreak among students at Iona College in New Rochelle, a city that was once the epicenter of the pandemic.
Democratic Westchester County Executive George Latimer says after a peak in March and April, the county started to flatten the curve.
“What we’re seeing is something of concern, but it is not a crisis,” Latimer says.
Speaking Tuesday about Monday’s numbers, Latimer says the county has 868 actives cases.
“A week ago, it was as 678 active cases. That’s an increase of almost 200 active cases within the context of a week,” says Latimer. “If you go back to two weeks ago, we had 562 active cases; that’s 300 additional cases in two weeks, active cases.”
He says there have been many more tests administered lately, as well; more than 7,000 tests daily in the past few days compared to around two weeks ago, with 3,000-to-4,000 tests.
“The Monday, Sunday into Monday testing had 107 new cases of coronavirus,” says Latimer. “That’s the largest, single-day number that we’ve had since May.”
He says, as of Sunday, 43 people in Westchester were hospitalized for COVID.
“Over the course of the prior week, from Monday, October 5 until Sunday, October 11, we had a steady rise in hospitalizations. We went from 27 hospitalized on Monday, Monday a week ago yesterday, 27 to 36 to 37 to 39 to 42, dropped back a shade to 41, then up to 43,” says Latimer. “That steady rise in hospitalizations, ultimately from 27 to 43, is a concerning number.”
Overall, 1,462 Westchester residents have died from COVID — the vast majority in the early weeks of the pandemic. Over the last week, five have died.
“Five fatalities in a week is an interesting number because the prior week we lost one, the week before that we lost two, the week before that we lost one, the week before that we lost one, and the week before that, which gets us back to the last week of August, we had no fatalities,” Latimer says.
Some of the increase in the county’s number of positive cases stems from an outbreak among Iona College students.
“Apparently, there were 69 cases, positive cases, that have come up in Iona. Some number of them are reflected in our numbers in Westchester County. I’m not sure quite how they’re all calculated, but the upshot of it is is that the college administration has worked closely with the county Department of Health to identify, track, contact trace and then isolate all of those positive cases,” Latimer says. “I don’t know the specifics of how they contracted it. It was in some group setting of some number of students, and I assume they were not taking the proper precautions.”
The state’s COVID-19 tracker for the period of October 10 through October 23 for Iona puts the number of positive cases at 51, and 24 for the week prior. On Facebook, Iona College said its surveillance testing identified an uptick in positive COVID-19 cases among certain athletic teams, which prompted widespread testing of all teammates and potential contacts. At this point, Iona officials say contact tracing indicates that the virus was transmitted through a single, isolated event, and is not indicative of a broader spread on campus. While the positive test numbers do not approach the state threshold forcing colleges to move to virtual instruction, Iona decided to move to remote learning until October 26. Outside of the Iona cluster, Latimer says the increase in positive cases is in more densely populated areas.
Earlier, Latimer postponed his October 8 State of the County address after Democratic County Legislator David Tubiolo tested positive for COVID-19. The address was to be open in-person to press only, and to the public virtually. Legislators and others who attended an October 1 event at the county office building in White Plains with Tubiolo were tested, including Latimer, and their test results came back negative. Latimer now plans to deliver his address October 22.