COVID-19 infections throughout Westchester County continue to rise, with the number of active cases having more than doubled in the past three weeks as numbers of newly vaccinated people have slowed to a trickle.
By Sunday, Westchester had seen an increase to 460 active cases, up from 295 last week and 185 from three weeks ago. On June 18, that number stood at 257.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said it is likely that the Delta variant has played a role in increasing the caseload among the unvaccinated locally.
“So our concern is that the unvaccinated portion of our population is subject to a more highly contagious variant of the disease, and that’s why we’re seeing jump ups in the number of positive infections,” Latimer said during his weekly briefing on Monday.
In mid-June, the number of daily infections dropped to a low in the single digits, but over the weekend there were 51 new infections on Saturday and 55 more on Sunday, Latimer said. Westchester had an infection rate of 1.2 percent through Sunday on the seven-day rolling average.
In Putnam County, there were four positive results from 213 tests.
The Westchester vaccination rate has nearly stalled at 78.3 percent of adults 18 and over who have received at least one dose. On June 27, that number stood at 76.6 percent.
On Sunday at the County Center in White Plains, there were only 68 vaccine doses administered, down from a high of 2,200.
“It tells you we have reached almost exactly the point where almost everyone who is eligible for a vaccination and wants a vaccination has received a vaccination and these people who have not yet been vaccinated, the 21 percent or so, are those who apparently choose not to be vaccinated,” Latimer said.
The County Center will remain open for vaccinations seven days a week but Sunday hours will be reduced to 8 a.m. to noon. The hours for the remainder of the week continue to be from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The encouraging news, at least for now, is that the recent sharp uptick in cases has not resulted in additional hospitalizations and deaths in Westchester. Countywide COVID-19-related hospitalizations stood on Sunday at 12, which compares favorably to the 19 people who needed that level of care in mid-June, Latimer said. There has been only one COVID death in the past three weeks and four in the past month, he said.
Statewide, the positivity rate was 1.2 percent on July 18 and 1.3 percent on the seven-day average.
Latimer said he has no plans to make mask wearing mandatory and doesn’t see a need to take other measures at this time.
However, county officials are trying to focus on communities with low vaccination rates, he said. There are some zip codes in lower Westchester where the vaccination rate is just above or slightly under 50 percent, according to the county’s vaccination tracker.
“We are trying to customize strategies around specific municipalities that have low turnout numbers,” Latimer said. “We have a number of communities with very high turnout numbers, well above 80 percent. So we’re targeting those communities that generally are more urbanized that have a high percentage of people who are poor, and at the other end of the spectrum, we have people who are in a somewhat more rural setting and are also seemingly less willing to get vaccinated.”
Latimer said for anyone who had doubts about the vaccine, there is a clear correlation between the rise of vaccinations and the drop in the number of infections.
“Someone should really give me a strong reason why you shouldn’t be vaccinated because I haven’t heard it yet,” he said. “This vaccination is the difference between being sick and not, living or dying in some cases, and (there are) people all around the world who would gladly take the unused vaccines we still have in our possession.”
For information on vaccination sites, the public may call 1-833-697-4829 or visit https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov
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/