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COVID-19 infection rates and active cases are accelerating locally and statewide as most of New York, including the lower Hudson Valley, appears to be in the midst of another wave.
With statewide rates reaching 10 percent on Sunday and all seven counties in the Mid-Hudson region at that level or higher, Westchester County Executive George Latimer urged residents to take common-sense precautions.
The statewide reading was the first time the transmission rate had reached double digits since Jan. 19, according to the state’s COVID tracker.
“There is no question that we are in another surge of COVID,” Latimer said Monday afternoon. “We had hoped that COVID was behind us and I think that most people felt that when the Omicron surge weathered out at the end of January into February, that we were past the worst of it.”
On Sunday, Westchester had 5,476 active cases of COVID-19, noticeably higher than the 3,047 cases on Apr. 15 and about five-and-a-half times the 966 cases on Mar. 15, Latimer said.
Perhaps more discouraging is that COVID-19-related hospitalizations have picked up again, standing at 113 over the past weekend, just about double the 57 people who were being treated a month earlier. Sunday’s count was nearly four times higher compared to Mar. 15 when there were 30 people hospitalized.
Every county in the region also had at least a 10 percent infection rate, ranging from a high of 14.6 percent in Dutchess County to a low of 10.2 percent in Ulster on Sunday. Westchester registered 11.1 percent and Putnam 12.9 percent.
“The fact that the increase in cases has also given us an increase in hospitalizations tells us it’s not just the frequency of the disease but to some degree the severity,” Latimer said.
While the county does not plan to institute mandates, Latimer said there are discussions about taking some action, such as possibly reinstituting a mask mandate for county buildings. Given that Westchester and most of the state have percentages that the Centers for Disease Control has characterized as high, Latimer recommended for everyone, but most importantly those who are in higher-risk categories, to put on a mask in public while indoors.
He also suggested that residents stay current on their COVID vaccine.
“The concern that we have continues that this disease is not, unfortunately, behind us,” Latimer said.
Despite the discouraging data in recent weeks, Westchester still plans to go forward with various summer activities as of now. Latimer said the county plans to open its beaches on Friday, May 27 and the county swimming pools will open for the season on June 24, the last Friday in June.
The return of the weekend ethnic festivals kicked off last Sunday with the Polish festival and will continue through the summer at Kensico Dam Plaza. (The June 25 Irish-American festival will be located at Ridge Road Park in Hartsdale.) For a complete list of the festivals that run through August, visit https://parks.westchestergov.com/press-releases/3089-the-43rd-annual-polish-heritage-festival-to-kick-off-2022-cultural-heritage-celebrations.)
Westchester is still offering free COVID tests at the County Center in White Plains Monday through Friday. The hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday and Thursday, 8 a.m. to noon on Wednesday and Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday.
The county is requesting that only those with a known exposure or who are feeling symptomatic should be tested at that location.
Latimer said the area of encouraging news, despite most of the numbers trending in the wrong direction recently, has been fatalities. During the past week, there were two COVID-19-related deaths in the county, which is low considering the uptick in cases.
“I think what we have seen, as the rate of transmission is higher, the rate of severity is less where you have a highly vaccinated population,” Latimer said. “Westchester, in general, is a highly vaccinated population.”
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