The Westchester County executive postponed his State of the County address Thursday after a Board of Legislators member tested positive for COVID-19.
Citing an abundance of caution, Democratic Westchester County Executive George Latimer postponed his Thursday evening address after Democratic County Legislator David Tubiolo of Yonkers tested positive for COVID-19. Latimer was tested Thursday and learned later in the day his test was negative.
“The members of the Board interact with each other at various meetings and times, and there’s some interaction between those on the eighth floor in the legislative branch and those of us in the executive branch on the ninth floor,” Latimer says. “So we’re following the protocols that have been laid out for us by public health-care professionals.”
Tubiolo, who is in quarantine and assisting with contact tracing, says he did not have any COVID symptoms. Tubiolo was last in the Board of Legislators office in the county office building in White Plains October 1. All legislators and staff who were in contact with Tubiolo are being tested.
“But I think it’s important to see your government react the same way when it is directly affected by this disease as we have encouraged the citizenry to act when they have been exposed to the disease,” Latimer says.
“There was a particular public event last week in which a number of individuals may have been exposed,” says Latimer. “So the potential exposure is a fairly large circle. We’ll see if it comes to pass.”
State Senator Shelley Mayer attended that October 1 event. It was an Italian Heritage Flag Raising at the county office building. All in attendance were advised to be tested. A spokesperson says Mayer’s test result came back negative. Mayer postponed an event Thursday in Mamaroneck to present the Community Resource Center with the New York state Senate Empire Award in recognition of its efforts serving the Hispanic community in Westchester during the coronavirus pandemic. State Senator Pete Harckham says he’d been in contact with Tubiolo and received a negative test result Friday morning.
As for the State of the County address that has been postponed to an undetermined date, Latimer explains why he decided on postponement rather than going entirely virtual.
“The basic message isn’t from the executive to the population at large, it’s from the executive to the legislative body, and, if the legislative body can’t be present for it, then I think we’ve missed what really the fundamental reality of it is,” says Latimer. “You may remember, most likely you forgot, that when I first became county executive-elect, I specifically asked the Board of Legislators to hold this meeting back in the Board chambers because it had been taken out of the Board chambers for a couple of years and put into a different venue. And I felt that, being a traditionalist, having been a member of the Board of Legislators in my career, having been a chairman of the Board in my career, I thought it was the right thing to do. So that’s why we didn’t do it virtually. That’s the rationale behind it.”
The address was to be open in-person to press only, and to the public virtually.
“The theme, in very general terms, is going to be, we’re resilient people,” says Latimer. “We have taken a hit, but we’re bouncing back from that. We’re dusting ourselves off, we’re moving forward. I’ll save the tag lines for the speech itself.”
Latimer, speaking Thursday, says he’s not following the White House’s lead.
“I’ve been observant of what’s happening in other levels of government, particularly in Washington D.C. The United States Senate has members that have tested positive. They seem to be prepared to go forward with their actions in the Judiciary Committee, and perhaps for the Senate at large,” Latimer says. “The president has shown his desire to continue to be active before the end of the period of time. We don’t take that strategy here. Every time I’ve given you an update on COVID, we’ve talked about how Westchester tries to be pragmatic and practical in the things we do, and we want to show that continued result right now. So it was not my desire to cancel tonight’s meeting, tonight’s speech particularly. We were prepared for it, we were looking forward to it, but it is the right thing to do to do that.”
Meantime, across the Hudson River, state-imposed restrictions are in effect in COVID clusters in Orange and Rockland Counties. New York has launched Zone Address Lookup Maps to determine if an address is within a Red Zone, with the most stringent regulations, or a buffer zone, in yellow. In addition to red and yellow, orange zones are being used in New York City hot spots.