Coronavirus Updates for Dec. 22: Cuomo Sounds Alarm on New Reported Virus Strain in United Kingdom

As Westchester and Putnam counties begin to see a downward trend in active coronavirus cases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday a stronger, more contagious strain of COVID-19 has been discovered circulating in the United Kingdom.

With foreign health officials claiming the new strain is 70 percent more transmissible and the United Kingdom currently under lockdown, Cuomo implored the federal government to consider implementing travel restrictions before it’s too late. He mentioned regulating mandatory testing and a new travel ban from Europe.

Currently, 30 nations have banned travel from the United Kingdom, with 120 European countries requiring passengers traveling from there to test negative for the virus prior to boarding.

“And the United States has done nothing,” Cuomo said during his Monday briefing. “When you do not require U.K. flights to be tested, you are allowing thousands of U.K. passengers to arrive here every day. I believe intuitively, it (the new virus strain) is already here.”

With three airlines – British Airways, Delta and Virgin Atlantic – flying daily from the United Kingdom to New York airports, Cuomo requested the state be placed on the list of 120 countries requiring travelers test negative for COVID-19 before boarding.

As of Monday, all three agreed to Cuomo’s request. The pre-board testing will begin on Tuesday, he said.

“I would not be doing my job as governor of New York if I sat here and let the federal incompetence create another emergency and disaster that costs the lives of New Yorkers,” Cuomo said. “I know and I believe my intuition is correct that this is another disaster waiting to happen.”

Cuomo stressed that if the federal government opts to do nothing, the same mistakes will continue to be made and place millions in danger. History has taught us it only takes one person to spread the virus, he said.

Statewide there were 9,007 new positive cases on Monday, according to the state tracker. The daily positivity rate was 5.75 percent.

The state recorded 109 additional COVID-19-related fatalities, bringing the death toll to 28,709 since March.

Total hospitalizations are at 6,331, an increase of 146 over the previous day, according to state data. Across New York there have been 857,049 positive coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.

While deaths have risen in Westchester County over the last week, active cases have decreased in recent days. But cases are still high compared to last month. Coronavirus cases increased by 433 on Monday, bringing the total number of positive cases to 63,373 since the start of the pandemic.

There are currently 8,186 active cases, another slight decrease from the previous day, with the daily test positivity rate at 5.26 percent. That percentage is based on 8,236 tests taken on Sunday. Overall, there have been over 1.3 million COVID-19 tests administered in Westchester since March.

“The numbers that we’re reporting have gone down since the peak of Tuesday,” County Executive George Latimer said on Monday. “Five days is not enough of a period of time to really assert that we have a longer-range trend.”

On Dec. 15, active cases reached a high of 8,771. While Latimer said it’s the first time there’s been a decrease in active cases in roughly two months, he said several factors could attribute to the change in cases, including a decrease in the infection rate, which remains just above 5 percent.

As of Saturday, there were 353 virus patients in Westchester hospitals, a number that has remained relatively consistent over the last two weeks. The county’s hospitalization rate is 4 percent, Latimer said.

The county reported five more deaths, bringing the number of COVID-19-releated fatalities to 1,611 since March. The county has recorded 82 deaths since Dec. 7, a sharp increase from the summer months when there were just 11 fatalities in July and August.

“The fatality factor is concerning,” Latimer said. “These are human lives that are affected by each of these situations.”

Putnam County’s total caseload has reached 4,168, according to the state, with 41 additional positive cases recorded on Monday. The county’s daily positivity rate is 5.43 percent, with 755 tests administered Sunday, state data shows.

Putnam currently has 800 active cases, a significant decline compared to Dec. 14 when the county had 954 active cases.

There have been 66 coronavirus-related deaths in Putnam. No new deaths were reported on Monday.

Here are the latest updates on Dec. 22

As Westchester County continues to experience a rise in coronavirus cases, Northern Westchester Hospital will be offering free COVID-19 diagnostic tests to the public.

COVID-19 tests are available to community members at the facilities Center for Healthy Living, located at 480 Bedford Road in Chappaqua, next to Whole Foods. With maximum safety measures in place to prevent exposure, health officials are only requesting residents schedule an appointment prior to arrival.

No prescription will be required during the no-cost appointment, and results will be given within one to three days of taking the test.

Health officials are asking those to be aware of any symptoms relating to the virus, including fever, chills, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, or new loss of taste or smell. Other symptoms include, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

State law also requires those traveling out of the state for more than 24-hours to test for the virus upon their return. The mandate states travelers must obtain a test within three days of departure, prior to arrival in New York, and must, upon arrival to New York, quarantine for three days.

On day four of their quarantine, the traveler must obtain another COVID test. If both tests come back negative, the traveler may exit quarantine.

Click here to make an appointment or call the Center for Healthy Living at 914-223-1780.

School News & Business Closures 

Business Closures

  • In Peekskill, Factoria, River Outpost, and Fin & Brew will be closed for the winter out of an abundance of caution with coronavirus cases rapidly increasing locally. Restaurants will reopen on March 15.

School Closures

  • Somers Central School District will shift to remote learning Dec. 21 to Dec. 23.
  • Ossining Union Free School District will be fully remote Monday and Tuesday.
  • Hendrick Hudson School District will be remote Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday. 
  • Carmel Central School District will transition to remote learning through Jan. 8.
  • Brewster Central School District will be on a remote learning schedule through Jan. 8
  • Greenburgh Central School District has transitioned all schools to remote learning through Jan. 11.
  • Peekskill City School District will close and shift to virtual learning through Jan. 4.
  • Mahopac Central School District will transition to virtual learning until January.
  • Lakeland Central School District will shift to its fully remote model starting Thursday through Jan. 19.

*****Westchester County has suspended sharing the community breakdown map over the last number of days. Officials are currently trying to get additional and more accurate information to share, with the goal to have the map more closely align with the New York State Tracker. They are still working on trying to get correct and expand the data, and when they do map distribution will resume.

If your business or school district may have been exposed to COVID-19, please email ayoung@theexaminernews.com to be placed on our daily COVID-19 list.

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