Concern Raised By Growing COVID-19 Caseload in Westchester

Westchester County Executive George Latimer expressed concern Tuesday about rising COVID-19 case numbers and a 2 percent infection rate on Sunday, the first time that level has been reached in more than four months.

New York State reported 107 new cases in Westchester on Oct. 11 out of 5,332 tests. Latimer said that over the past week virus-related hospitalizations have been slowly but steadily ticking up within the county, rising from 27 on Oct. 5 to 43 on Oct. 12.

It was the first time since May 27 that there were that many positives in the county in a single day and the first time since June 4 the rate of positive tests have reached 2 percent.

Active cases as of Sunday totaled 868, an increase of 190 from the week before and 306 from two weeks ago. There were five COVID-19-related deaths in Westchester last week. Since the last week of August, there had not been more than two deaths in any week, he said.

Although Latimer said the situation is not a crisis, he called for residents to “double down” on mask wearing and social distancing.

“The upshot of this is the concerns we have now are legitimate concerns in a county where we have seen the worst of this disease and we have rebounded from the worst of this disease to see some of the better responses,” Latimer said.

There doesn’t appear to be a known single cause for the increases with a greater number of additional cases tending to be within the more densely populated communities. The return to school for K-12 and college students has likely played a factor, he said.

The growing numbers are at least partially reflected in cases from a significant cluster of 69 positives at Iona College in New Rochelle during the past week, Latimer said. He did not know how many of those cases were counted toward Westchester’s totals. Cases of college students who live elsewhere are usually counted in their home communities.

While he did not have specific information on what happened at Iona, the county executive said it was his understanding that it was from a gathering that wasn’t sanctioned by the school.

“We think that people are dropping their guard a little bit,” Latimer said. “We think folks having not seen the virus advance here for a while, and so therefore, the more likely (to) advance in the big cities of the county and the more concentrated villages, you are less likely to wear masks, you are certainly less likely to socially distance.”

Numbers reported by the state on Tuesday for Westchester improved to a 1.3 percent transmission rate, with 63 positive results out of 4,990 tests.

Latimer said officials will keep a close eye on the daily numbers and take appropriate action where necessary.

“Whatever is going to happen in the days to come, we’re going to monitor that and then we’ll act off of that information and try to make the best possible decisions here at the county level,” Latimer said.

He also reported that there have been no known transmissions stemming from the positive test result last Wednesday of County Legislator David Tubiolo. Tubiolo had been tested on Oct. 3.

The Oct. 8 State of the County address that was called off as a precautionary measure has been tentatively rescheduled for Oct. 22.