The Orange County executive has informed residents that the COVID-19 cluster New York Governor Andrew Cuomo deemed a red zone earlier in October has been downgraded to orange. Meantime, the county executive is hoping to have indoor dining capacity increased as cold weather approaches.
On October 6, Governor Cuomo, a Democrat, announced a so-called cluster action initiative to address COVID-19 hot spots in the state and reduce the spread. The color-coded system assigned red zones, with the most stringent rules and regulations, to clusters in Orange and Rockland Counties, the only such clusters in the Hudson Valley. On Wednesday, Cuomo announced that the red zone in Orange, has gone from red to orange.
“In Orange County, the red zone was at 12 percent three weeks ago. It’s now 2 percent, so that’s obviously dramatic progress, and the hospitalization number is flat,” Cuomo says. So the red zone will go to orange; the yellow zone will stay yellow.”
The red zone included the Orthodox Jewish communities in the Town of Palm Tree and, within, the Village of Kiryas Joel. It was the only zone change Cuomo announced. During his daily Facebook briefing Wednesday, Republican Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus addressed the change.
“We had a conversation with the New York state that Palm Tree is now no longer a red zone, it’s an orange zone, and what does that mean? Not a lot, because restaurants and things like that, none of them exist there. In addition, you guys have been asking me a lot of questions, why are school buses and schools being allowed to open in Palm Tree,” Neuhaus says. “Well, the state decided that the schools are also day-care centers. So all that enforcement and lawsuits and all the stuff is now, in my opinion, moot, because they’re now being deemed day-care centers, and some of them have already changed their name from schools to day-care centers.”
Neuhaus then directed any residents who might be in disagreement with the issue to contact state lawmakers.
“Talk to your state senator. Talk to your state representative. Talk to your governor on why that was changed if you don’t like that ruling,” Neuhaus says. “To me, it’s very interesting where things are going here, to say the least.”
Neuhaus reported 69 new COVID-19 cases.
“Twenty-three percent are in the Town of Palm Tree; 15 percent are in the City of Newburgh; and the City of Middletown, Town of Monroe and Town of Warwick each have 8 percent,” says Neuhaus.
He cited 458 active COVID cases this week, up from 406 last week; 529 the week before; 474 the week before that and going back yet another week, 340. Neuhaus, pointing to restaurant closures in other counties because of the fiscal hit from COVID-19, says he wants to help such establishments.
“What we’re doing as a county, as a Hudson Valley coalition, the county execs, is advocating for 75 percent restaurant occupancy, right. So, right now we’re at 50 percent and you’re like, alright Steve, you’re reporting, earlier you started off saying cases are going higher, what’s up, why are you asking for higher occupancy,” Neuhaus says. “Well, very simply, I, to my knowledge, don’t have any restaurants, and Rockland County said the same thing, that have had any new cases that have, came, been, originated in the restaurants. I know of a family went to a restaurant and they were sick. That doesn’t mean the restaurant failed to do their job.”
Meantime, in Westchester County, the number of active COVID cases continues to climb, though Democratic County Executive George Latimer says the situation is one of concern, not crisis. On Monday, he reported 1,200 active cases.
“That number has jumped up dramatically. A week ago, that number was 1,000 cases, and so we’re at 1,201 cases today. If you go back two weeks ago, that number was 868 cases,” Latimer So it’s been going up pretty regularly now that last four or five weeks, the number of positive cases.”
He says the infection rate is still below 2 percent.