Westchester will close the County Center in White Plains this Friday as a mass COVID-19 vaccination and testing site as cases diminish and the need for large-scale inoculations fade.
County Executive George Latimer said Monday afternoon that demand at the facility, which was set up to vaccinate more than 2,000 people a day after the shots were made available, has slowed to a trickle in recent months. It has been used for that purpose since early January 2021.
“Now that the demand for vaccination has dropped dramatically, probably because we have such a high percentage of our population that’s been vaccinated, so we are going to come out of the County Center for that purpose, again, as of the end of the week,” Latimer said.
Anyone who is due a second dose would need to receive it at the county health department clinic at 134 Court St. in White Plains. The clinic will also continue to operate its Friday vaccine program from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
According to statistics from New York State, 857,658 people in Westchester have received at least one dose and 789,760 people have had two doses. Statistics have not been kept regarding the number of boosters that have been dispensed, Latimer said.
Since the time vaccines first began being administered, 349,422 doses have been provided at the County Center through Sunday.
Despite a slight uptick in cases over the past week, Latimer said he doesn’t believe that it is premature to close the facility for vaccinations and testing. Those have become readily available at clinics and pharmacies throughout the county and it is expected those locations will be able to meet the demand, he said.
The only exception was during the holiday season surge of the Omicron variant where tests were difficult to obtain.
“We think at this stage of the game that we’ll be able to handle that demand using the existing areas for vaccinations other than a singular mass vaccination site,” Latimer said.
The interior of the facility will have to be deconstructed after Friday, he added. It is not known how long the 90-year-old facility will remain unable to host events but Latimer expected that to continue for multiple months.
Eventually, a discussion about the future of the County Center will have to be started, Latimer said.
On Sunday, there were 1,344 active cases in the county, up from 1,066 a month earlier. However, there were only 31 hospitalizations compared to 83 with nearly 300 fewer cases on Feb. 27. Furthermore, there were 14 deaths from Feb. 27 to Mar. 27, compared to 89 for the prior month.
Latimer said it is likely the high vaccination rate makes the somewhat heightened caseload far less dangerous for many who contract the virus. Compared to the surrounding counties in the lower and mid-Hudson Valley and Long Island and the five boroughs of New York City, only Manhattan exceeds Westchester’s vaccination rate.
“We have a diminution in the severity of the disease, which means that Westchester, more so than any of the surrounding counties, more so than Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange, Ulster counties, the Bronx, Brooklyn, State Island, we have had a high rate of vaccinations,” he said.
On Sunday, the statewide positivity rate registered 2.9 percent, the highest since it last hit 3 percent on Feb. 13.
Westchester saw a 3.3 percent infection rate on Sunday, with 94 positive cases from 2,853 tests. Its seven-day average stood at 2.6 percent.
Meanwhile, Putnam County had a 3.9 percent positivity rate with nine positives out of 280 tests. Its seven-day rolling average also registered 2.6 percent.
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/