COVID-19 Cases Continue to Surge in Westchester as ‘Second Wave’ Approaches

Westchester County Executive George Latimer indicated the area is beginning to see the effects of a second wave of COVID-19, with the positive infection rate and caseload increasing at a rapid and aggressive rate.

Westchester saw its positivity rate clock in at 4.6 percent on Sunday, with 230 positive coronavirus results from 6,167 tests. Between Nov. 9 and Nov. 15, the county recorded 2,122 new positive cases, with the number of active cases within the county now 3,515, a nearly 1,300 increase over last week.

Over the last month, COVID-19 cases have more than doubled, with the county registering 942 active cases on Oct. 16. Latimer pressed the numbers are significant, comparing the latest caseloads to those reported in May.

“The 3,500 number is very concerning to all of us,” Latimer said. “It was predicted by all health professionals that we would see a second wave and I think we’re now clearly seeing that second wave in the number of infections and the spread of the infections.”

Hospitalizations have nearly tripled over the last two weeks, with the county reporting 121 as of Sunday. Westchester saw 11 coronavirus-related deaths last week, Latimer said, comparing the one-week fatality number to the amount of deaths logged in July and August combined.

Since March, Westchester has had 1,490 coronavirus-related deaths.

“Now we’re seeing hospitalizations go up as there is an increase in the degree of severity in the number of cases,” he said. “The line is heading straight up. It’s an increase across the board.”

As the positive rate continues to rise, Latimer said his office will now conduct two COVID-19-related briefings a week – one on Monday’s and the other on Thursday’s – to ensure residents remain informed. He said with cases moving at a high speed, the response by county and other municipal governments will need to be even faster.

To mitigate the spread of coronavirus, Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins said county facilities will begin operating with a 25 percent staff on Nov. 23, with boards and commissioners required to move fully remote.

Latimer warned residents to take precautions and follow safety measures to slow the spread of the virus. If the caseload continues to rise, he said the area risks being labeled a yellow, orange, or red hotspot zone by the state and will face similar restrictions implemented early in the pandemic.

With Gov. Andrew Cuomo implementing mandates to target micro-clusters statewide, red, orange, and yellow zone designations are applied to areas with rising coronavirus cases that meet the states criteria. The label would apply more stringent restrictions on gatherings, activities, businesses, and schools, in addition to the current mandates in place.

To be classified as a yellow zone, the lowest of the three-tier system, an area would need a 7-day rolling average positivity rate above 2.5% for 10 days and the addition of 10 or more new daily cases per 100,000 residents on a 7-day average.

Port Chester is currently the only Westchester municipality to receive a designation, with Cuomo upping it from a yellow zone to an orange warning zone last week.

“This disease is a serious disease and to whatever extent people have called it a hoax in the past and so forth, the bodies that have piled up should clear our minds of any false sense of what the jeopardy is here,” Latimer said. “These zones are not meant to restrict you for the sake of restriction, this is to fight the disease, and if you don’t believe that is true, let me be blunt, you need to rethink your point of view.”