New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Thursday added COVID-19 micro-clusters in three Hudson Valley counties. Earlier in the day, four county leaders and their health commissioners held a briefing to implore the public not to get casual about the virus, especially with the holidays around the corner.
Governor Cuomo detailed the new zones during a conference call with reporters.
“In Rockland County, we’re going to expand the zone to include Pearl River, West Haverstraw, Stony Point and Suffern. Orange County, we’ll be adding a yellow zone for Newburgh, New Windsor, Middletown and Highland Falls, it’s right near West Point,” Cuomo says. “Westchester County, adding a yellow zone in New Rochelle, Ossining, Tarrytown, Yonkers and Peekskill.”
Meantime, leaders from Dutchess, Orange, Putnam and Ulster counties gathered virtually to ask residents to remain vigilant in the coming weeks and curtail small social gatherings, which have increased the Mid-Hudson region’s positivity rate. Cuomo says the Mid-Hudson region and the Finger Lakes have a seven-day average positivity rate of 3.8 percent. Only Western New York is higher, at 4.8 percent. Republican Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus:
“We are attributing them to gatherings. In Pine Bush, for instance, we have 20 people that have tested positive from a house party. Another 40 or 50 awaiting results,” Neuhaus says. “So, the message that we’d like to send out is, look, we all know that we’re heading into this second wave, whatever you want to call it but, a lot of this stuff is avoidable if you take these precautions. Most of us, if not all of us on this call, your leaders, who are out and about, have not gotten sick. I’m out and about at events all day long. I wear a mask. I wash my hands.”
Orange County Health Commissioner Dr. Irina Gelman:
“We are seeing a surge in new cases in the aftermath of Halloween parties, at least in Orange County,” Gelman says. “We have seen over 1,000 cases over the last 10 days, many of them attributable directly to social gatherings and a direct result of parties.”
Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan gives an example of how a casual gathering spreads the virus.
“We had an incident that actually crossed two of our counties where we had a Halloween party that involved just three families, just three families that decided to get together with their kids, about a little over 20 folks. Fast forward three weeks now, initially there were four, we’ve learned through contact tracing, four children that were positive unknowingly at that gathering of those three families,” Ryan says. “We now have, 15 of them have been positive, and the real exponential effect of that though is that that has now touched, in our region, one college, where one of those individuals attends, and three different schools — an elementary, a middle and a high school — all in one of our school districts.”
Putnam County’s positivity rate is 3.1 percent. Republican Deputy County Executive Tom Feighery says Putnam’s cases have risen a lot over the past few weeks.
“What we’ve seen is direct correlation from letting down our guard from Halloween,” Feighery says.
He says Putnam’s infection rate doubled in the six days following Halloween. And while not yet in any color-coded zones, Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, whose father died from COVID in April, says the numbers in his county are on the rise as he’s seen the second wave coming into the region from west to east.
“Only two weeks ago, we were monitoring 192 active cases. Today, we’re monitoring 609. Two weeks ago, 10 individuals hospitalized in Dutchess County. Today, 27,” says Molinaro. “At this pace, we will exceed, 1,000 active cases by this time next week.”
He urges residents to hunker down and not give an inch, with the holidays around the corner.
“We ask you to keep, keep this holiday small,” Molinaro says. “Find ways to celebrate that perhaps wouldn’t bring us all together physically.”
Cuomo also urged residents to avoid travel and Thanksgiving gatherings.
“This year, if you love someone, it is smarter and better to stay away,” Cuomo says.
Or, as Ulster County Health Commissioner Dr. Carol Smith puts it:
“So let’s give each other the gift of good health and not spread this virus,” Smith says.
On Wednesday, 31 New Yorkers died from COVID. Of these, Dutchess, Orange, Ulster and Westchester Counties each had one death.