COVID-19 Cases Continue to Surge Playing Havoc With School Schedules

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Officials remained wary this week as COVID-19 positivity rates and cases continue to surge in the area and throughout the state, an increase that has forced various schools throughout the region at least temporarily move to remote learning.

On Sunday, positivity rates in Westchester and Putnam counties soared to more than 4 percent, a trend that started slowly toward the end of September but has continued to accelerate.

Westchester saw its positivity rate clock in at 4.2 percent on Sunday, with 275 positive results from 6,601 tests. That was up from 3.4 percent on Saturday, 2.9 percent last Friday and 2.3 percent each last Wednesday and Thursday. The number of active cases within the county stood at 2,048 as of Saturday.

County Executive George Latimer acknowledged Monday that “the trend lines are concerning.” However, he cautioned that the seriousness is nowhere near the problems the county and the state faced in early spring.

“I don’t think we’ve reached the point at which we can call it a wave of similar intensity to what we saw in the spring, and if it becomes that then it will indeed be a ferocious impact on us,” Latimer said.

He attributed at least some of the increase to social gatherings as well as the return of students to college and in-person learning in local school districts.

Over the weekend there were 82 COVID-19 hospitalizations in Westchester, up from 48 on Nov. 1. One person died from the virus from each of the last three days last week ending on Saturday.

In Putnam, the arc of the recent bump in cases and positivity rates was similar. On Sunday, there were 30 positives reported from 665 tests, which computes to a 4.5 percent rate. The positivity rate ranged from 2 to 4.5 percent during the past week. There are 71 active cases in Putnam County with two hospitalizations.

The county saw its first COVID-19-related death since the summer during the past week.

Schools Feel the Surge

The spike in cases is playing havoc with school schedules and districts’ ability to test and have enough staff on hand in some cases. Bedford Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joel Adelberg announced that for the remainder of this week, all Fox Lane Middle School will transition to remote learning.

There were 20 Bedford students districtwide that were positive as of last Friday, according to the state’s COVID-19 report card that monitors cases within schools. But quarantining staff members has challenges created a different set of challenges, Adelberg wrote to parents on Monday.

“Based on the number of teachers and staff that have to be quarantined, students will continue to learn remotely for the rest of the week. They will be expected to attend every class via Google Meets at home,” he stated.

Somers Middle School closed on Tuesday in favor of remote learning after an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 was last in the building last Thursday. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Raymond Blanch said in a communication with parents that plans call for middle school students return to class on Thursday.

As of last Friday, there were 12 positive cases among students in Byram Hills, including nine at the high school. However, there were 43 sixth-graders at H.C. Crittenden Middle School and six staff members who must quarantine until at least Nov. 18, said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jen Lamia.

In Pleasantville, the high school was closed last Friday after one reported case, and two new cases were reported on Monday for a total of five active cases, said Superintendent of Schools Mary-Fox Alter. Bedford Road School has one presumed case.

Fox-Alter said that none of the cases were contracted at school and in each instance the cases were unrelated to each other. While uncertain whether Halloween celebrations from the previous weekend played a role in any of the positive cases, she had no knowledge of outrageous flouting of guidelines.

“I have no information that says that people in Pleasantville did not violate New York State guidance for outdoor activities,” Fox-Alter said. “I have no information that anybody violated them.”

The number of active cases in individual municipalities have been on the increase throughout the county. As of Monday, there were 106 active cases in White Plains, 70 in Peekskill, 46 in Yorktown, 43 in Cortlandt. 37 in Mount Pleasant, 34 in North Castle, 32 in Mount Kisco and 28 in New Castle.

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