At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the epicenter in New York was in New Rochelle, in Westchester County. Yet new hotspots more than six months later are in two Hudson Valley counties across the Hudson River and have not impacted Westchester. During his weekly COVID-19 briefing, Westchester County Executive George Latimer says there has been an uptick in active cases, but no spikes landing any Westchester zip codes on what has become a top-20 statewide list.
County Executive Latimer, a Democrat, says Westchester has seen 674 active cases, up from the 400s and 500s from a few weeks ago.
“We still have a control in the infection percentage.in Westchester County. It’s still around 1 percent, on a given day it may be a little higher on a certain day given lower. Our total number of active cases are larger but we are testing far more people now than we were on a given day three, four months ago,” Latimer says. “The hospitalization numbers are as low as they’ve been throughout the whole pandemic, and the fatality numbers are as low as they’ve been. This is not a way to pat ourselves on the back. This is not a way to drop our guard. This is just a factual analysis of where we are.”
Latimer cited one COVID-related fatality over the weekend, the first in 10 days. He says there have been 10 deaths over the past two months, a major decrease from the height of the pandemic. Also on Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state would oversee enforcement actions in hotspot clusters. In Orange and Rockland Counties, the clusters are predominantly in Orthodox Jewish communities. On Tuesday, Cuomo talked about dividing communities in or near the clusters into zones.
Latimer on Monday referenced Cuomo’s update. He says while river towns in Westchester may look similar to river towns in Rockland County, the COVID clusters in Rockland and Orange are inland and different than in Westchester.
“We’re border buddies with the Bronx, and the areas of Westchester that border the Bronx —south side of Mount Vernon, southwest Yonkers — look functionally just like the Bronx,” Latimer says. “So sometimes we’re more in common with the Bronx than we are with our Hudson Valley colleagues.”
Meantime, Latimer says two airlines are resuming commercial flights out of Westchester County Airport.
“We have resumed service to Florida that began on October 1, and then upcoming in two days flights will resume to North Carolina, and that’s Jet Blue and that’s American are the two carriers that are going to resume those flights,” says Latimer. “There’s going to be a couple flights a day, so we’re not going to go back to sort of the madhouse mornings or the madhouse evenings that you might seat that airport, almost like a commuter train station. And the people who are concerned about overhead flights will see a few more flights a day, but not a tremendous amount. However, those airlines are going to judge whether or not they continue service into Westchester County Airport on the basis of whether or not there’s a demand for it.”
This comes on the heels of Jet Blue and Delta indefinitely suspending their flights from New York Stewart International Airport in Orange County. American Airlines announced in August it would discontinue its flights at Stewart beginning in the fall. Latimer says 20 percent of the flights at Westchester County Airport are commercial. He also addressed the U.S. Census, saying federal court action has allowed the count to continue, for now.
“At last look, Westchester County has already surpassed, overall, the percentage of households responding that we had in 2010 and in 2000. So we’ve already surpassed that in 2020, even with all of the COVID difficulties in doing the count,” Latimer says. “So, not only have we passed our own records but are we pacing ahead of the statewide percentage and we’re pacing ahead of the national percentage.”
And, with closer scrutiny on whether elected officials and their staff are wearing masks following President Donald Trump’s COVID illness, Latimer underscored his actions Monday.
“I want to highlight that we’re here in the media room on the ninth floor of the county office building and we are at least 10-15 feet away from the other people in the room, so I’ve removed my mask so that I can be more clearly understood,” Latimer says.
On Thursday, Latimer is set to deliver his State of the County address, virtually.