Coronavirus Updates for Dec. 15: COVID-19 Vaccine Rolled Out as Local, State Virus Cases Mushroom

Sandra Lindsay made history on Monday as the first American to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

An ICU nurse in Queens was the first person in the United States to receive the federally approved COVID-19 vaccine on Monday as the battle to defeat coronavirus has begun.

Sandra Lindsay, who works at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, made history after the first trucks bearing about 2.9 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine left the medial corporation’s Michigan facility on Sunday. Vaccines are expected to be delivered to 636 predetermined locations nationwide by the end of the week.

Lindsay, who has been on the front lines of the virus since March, said she felt hopeful after the vaccine was injected into her left arm, while instilling public confidence that the vaccine is safe.

“I feel hope today, relieved,” she said. “I feel like healing is coming and this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history. We’re in a pandemic and so we all need you to do your part to put an end to the pandemic, and not give up so soon.”

While there is a light at the end of the tunnel, Lindsay pressed the need to wear masks and social distance as the nation is far from the vaccine reaching critical mass. The first phase of the state’s vaccine distribution plan prioritizes health care workers, nursing home residents and staff and EMS workers.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said while the war to defeat COVID-19 is officially underway, there won’t be mass inoculation until possibly June. Even then, he said health officials estimate 75 to 85 percent of Americans will need to take the vaccine for it to be effective.

“And the point about New Yorkers and Americans having to do their part and take the vaccine, because the vaccine only works if the American people take it,” Cuomo said. “So, this is the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s a long tunnel, and we need people to continue to do the right thing and the smart thing all through the holiday season.”

With coronavirus cases surging after Halloween and Thanksgiving, Cuomo stressed the importance of following safety guidelines. He said while it was predicted the caseload would increase in the fall and winter months, contact tracing data shows roughly 74 percent of new cases stem from indoor home gatherings.

He said that while the problem last spring was going out, today the issue is staying home and inviting people over. Cuomo added that the state has taken every precaution to limit the spread of the virus, and now it’s up to the public to be vigilant and disciplined during the holiday season.

Statewide there were 15,844 new positive cases on Sunday, with a daily positivity rate at 5.66 percent. The state recorded 83 additional COVID-19-related fatalities, bringing the death toll to 27,870 since March.

Total hospitalizations are at 5,712, an increase of 302 over the previous day. Across the state there have been 784,204 positive coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.

Here are the latest updates in Westchester & Putnam counties on Dec. 15: 

As cases of coronavirus have steadily increased over the last eight weeks in Westchester, County Executive George Latimer said on Monday the silver lining right now is that the hospitalization rate remains low compared to what it was in the spring when the area saw similar active cases to what’s been reported in recent weeks.

As of Monday, there were about 360 virus patients in Westchester hospitals, a 309-patient increase since Nov. 3.

“It is encouraging that there are less people sick enough to be hospitalized based on the same amount of infection; however, the spread of the infection is concerning because we have basically shut down,” Latimer said during his Monday afternoon briefing. “The disease is spreading more because of our interpersonal contacts outside of the public domain and in our private dealings.”

In Westchester, coronavirus cases increased by 594 on Monday, bringing the total number of positive cases to 59,431 since the start of the pandemic.

There are currently 8,738 active cases, with the daily test positivity rate at 6.40 percent. That percentage is based on 9,287 tests taken on Sunday. Overall, there have been more than 1.2 million COVID-19 tests administered in Westchester since March.

While active cases rise, Westchester’s death toll has ballooned in recent weeks. The county reported six more coronavirus-related deaths from Sunday. There have been 1,568 fatalities since March, with 39 deaths recorded over the last week.

This time last month there were 1,490 COVID-19-related deaths in Westchester County.

Putnam County’s total caseload has reached 3,795, according to the state, with 52 additional positive cases recorded on Monday. The county’s daily positivity rate is 6.62 percent, with 786 tests administered Sunday, state data shows.

Putnam County currently has 951 active cases.

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

School News & Business Closures 

Business Closures

  • Pour in Mount Kisco has closed temporarily after an employee signaled he may have been exposed to COVID-19. All employees will be tested for the virus while the restaurant undergoes a necessary cleaning process.
  • 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

  • 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 Dec. 21, for now.
  • Peekskill City School District will close and shift to virtual learning through Jan. 4.
  • Pound Ridge Elementary School will be on a remote learning schedule through Thursday.
  • 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 Active Coronavirus Cases by Municipality 

Here are the active cases by municipality in Westchester as of Friday. With a lag between the total number of cases confirmed by the state and the tally of cases by town, the total number of municipal cases might be slightly different than what the county’s active cases reflects.

  • Ardsley – 39
  • Bedford – 141
  • Briarcliff Manor – 50
  • Bronxville – 36
  • Buchanan – 11
  • Cortlandt – 148
  • Croton-on-Hudson – 48
  • Dobbs Ferry – 71
  • Eastchester – 148
  • Elmsford – 47
  • Greenburgh – 239
  • Harrison – 178
  • Hastings-on-Hudson – 18
  • Irvington – 28
  • Larchmont – 24
  • Lewisboro – 81
  • Mamaroneck Town – 37
  • Mamaroneck Village – 161
  • Mount Kisco – 152
  • Mount Pleasant – 183
  • Mount Vernon – 294
  • New Castle – 64
  • New Rochelle – 520
  • North Castle – 80
  • North Salem – 35
  • Ossining Town – 35
  • Ossining Village – 211
  • Peekskill – 221
  • Pelham – 52
  • Pelham Manor – 24
  • Pleasantville – 41
  • Port Chester – 234
  • Pound Ridge – 19
  • Rye Brook – 46
  • Rye City – 90
  • Scarsdale – 74
  • Sleepy Hollow – 70
  • Somers – 106
  • Tarrytown – 57
  • Tuckahoe – 20
  • White Plains – 468
  • Yonkers – 1,201
  • Yorktown – 251

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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