As COVID-19 cases increase across New York and the nation, Westchester County is no exception. In fact, the sharp uptick has the county executive and his team very concerned and working to keep any part of the county from facing the most severe of state-imposed restrictions.
County Executive George Latimer says Westchester’s active cases number 3,515, a figure last seen around May.
“One week ago today when I last gave this report, we had 2.252 active cases,” says Latimer. “That is an increase of 1,300 active cases in the last week. That’s almost a doubling from where we were two weeks ago — we were at 1,513 cases, and that is more than a doubling over the course of two weeks.”
He says there are 121 people in the hospital, compared with 47 two weeks ago. In the last week, 11 people have died from COVID; the week before, six people died.
“In the months of July and August combined, we lost 11 people. Two months, 11 people; two weeks, and we’ve lost 17 people,” says Latimer. “So we are clearly in a position where this virus is spreading, it’s spreading over an aggressive fashion and it’s something we are very concerned about.”
Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins announced a new workforce policy in light of the uptick in COVID cases. The percentage applies to on-site employees across the 4.500 employee county workforce.
“We’re going to take the time to reevaluate at the beginning of next year, but, beginning November 23, a maximum of 25 percent of the county workforce where it’s possible,” Jenkins says. “In addition, our boards and commissions are 100 percent virtual. There has been virtual boards and commissions for many months, but some of the boards have been beginning to meet in person. All boards and commissions for the county of Westchester will be remote.”
Fellow Democrat Latimer:
“And we have no authority as a county government to instruct other businesses to do the same, but we think the time is now for all businesses, particularly those that have office-related, administrative-related functions, to take voluntary steps to reduce the in-person workforce, to reduce the number of people that are out in the community and potentially getting exposed to the virus,” Latimer says.
On November 11, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that Port Chester in Westchester County would transition from its new designation of a Yellow Zone to an Orange Zone. Orange zones carry more restrictive regulations than yellow zones, and red zones are the most restrictive. Latimer says he is working with local and community leaders to prevent any location in the county going to red. He also addressed the status of in-person learning.
“So with these rising cases, it is not possible to bring all the students back in school,” says Latimer.
A hybrid model is as far as it will go for now. Latimer says PSAs are going out in English and Spanish, and showed an example of the latter urging residents to practice social distancing and mask wearing.
Latimer has a message for those residents who ignore health guidelines intended to prevent COVID from spreading.
“I invite you to join us when we have refrigerator trucks of bodies with toe tags on them stacked up in a refrigerated vehicle in one location or another because we do not have enough capacity to deal with the number of people that died within a period of time, and then tell me about what you think your rights should be and shouldn’t be when we have dead bodies stacked up like that,” Latimer says. “I lose my patience with that. It’s all I can do to maintain sort of a corporate demeanor in discussing things with people who just will not understand this is a fatal disease. This is not just like the flu. This does not have a death ratio that is like the flu.”
Starting this week, Latimer is increasing his weekly Facebook live updates to twice weekly, Mondays and Thursdays. Over the summer, Latimer had reduced his daily COVID briefings to weekly.