The rapid rise in COVID-19 cases and now hospitalizations and deaths since the Omicron variant arrived early last month has prompted Westchester officials to use the County Center as a testing and vaccination site.
County Executive George Latimer announced Monday that county residents 12 years old and up in need of a booster shot or who are seeking a pediatric vaccination for their child five to 11 years old can make an appointment online to come to the Central Avenue facility in White Plains.
“We have the space, we have it set up as a medical facility so offering testing, as well as vaccinations and boosters, makes sense and it is what the people of this county need right now,” Latimer said.
In the closing days of 2021, the county opened a portion of the site for PCR testing, and that will continue. Only those people who are symptomatic or have a known exposure to COVID can make an appointment to be tested.
Sessions for boosters in January are Wednesdays from 1 to 4 p.m., Fridays from 1 to 6 p.m. and two Saturdays a month, with the first Saturday being Jan. 22, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pediatric vaccinations will be from 3 to 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays, 2:30 to 6 p.m. on Fridays and at the same time that boosters are available on the designated Saturdays.
About 250 doses are available each day. Appointments can be made at health.westchestergov.com.
Testing is available Mondays and Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 4p.m., Wednesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to noon and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the remainder of January.
To make an appointment for a test, visit https://app.squarespacescheduling.com/schedule.php?owner=24841628&calendarID=6348560.
Latimer said the available tests and shots at the location is inadequate.
“Whether it’s testing or vaccinations, the demand exceeds the supply,” he said. “We knew that. It’s nothing new. We had that (last) January and February. People drove to Potsdam, N.Y. to get the vaccination because they couldn’t get the vaccination in due time.”
Announcement of the continuation of testing and now boosters and vaccinations for children comes as cases, hospitalizations and fatalities in the county and throughout the state reach alarming levels.
On Monday, there were 35,816 active cases in Westchester, an increase of more than 9,000 over the past week and 20,000 over the last two weeks. A glimmer of hope, Latimer said, is that the rate of increase has been diminishing, but there have still been between 3,000 and 4,000 new positives each day during the past week.
While the Omicron variant has been as transmissible as advertised and it has been milder for many people, particularly those who are fully vaccinated and boosted, the quickly rising COVID-19-related hospitalizations is cause for worry.
On Monday, there were 626 hospitalizations, up from 393 a week ago, eclipsing the high from last winter’s surge, which saw it peak at about 560 on Jan. 18. At that time there were about 11,500 active cases.
As a result, as many patients as possible who don’t have COVID-19 are being discharged from hospitals as a precaution.
“We’re deeply concerned that is going to be a problem for us as we go forward,” said Latimer, who noted there are about 2,700 hospital beds throughout the county.
Fatalities have also been sharply increasing. During the entire month of November, seven Westchester residents died from the virus. However, that number has been rising fast, from 15 for the week ending more than two weeks ago, to 31 the week after to 47 during the most recently completed week.
Latimer said the county is requesting a breakdown from the state regarding how many of the COVID-19 hospitalizations are people who are unvaccinated, have one dose, two doses or have received their booster.
“It’s not numbers for the sake of numbers,” Latimer said, “it’s numbers so we can look at and then drive policy. If you want to keep schools open you need to know these numbers.”
White Plains Mayor Tom Roach, who like Latimer tested positive last month despite being fully vaccinated and boosted, urged people to get up to date with their shots to give them the best chance at fighting off the virus.
“I was vaccinated and boosted when I tested positive and my symptoms were basically nothing,” Roach said. “I never had a fever, I never felt ill, I had a bit of the sniffles for a day and then it went away.”
Food Assistance Available
Westchester County is prepared to offer food assistance for residents and families having difficulty getting access to food while under isolation from COVID-19.
The food assistance service is available to any Westchester County resident. To find out more information, call the Westchester County Department of Social Services at 914-995-5566. Assistance is available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/