COVID-19 infections are steadily increasing the past few weeks but officials are hopeful that the high regional and state vaccination rate is protecting much of the population from serious illness.
On Sunday, Westchester County’s infection rate clocked in at 3.9 percent, after back-to-back days of readings of at least 4 percent on Friday and Saturday, according to the New York State COVID tracker. The positivity rate stood at an even 4 percent on Friday but had risen to 4.5 percent on Saturday in Westchester.
County Executive George Latimer said while the infection numbers have been rising, the number of hospitalized patients as a result of COVID-19 has been declining. On Sunday, the 1,736 active cases in the county were just over double the total on Mar. 3 when there were 819 cases; however, COVID hospitalizations in that same timeframe have fallen from 56 to 35.
“So we see a couple of indicators moving in opposite directions, but the most important thing is are we keeping the fatalities low and are people staying out of the hospital, and if those numbers continue to show a low level of improvement, then that is the point we believe we can manage – in quotation marks – COVID,” Latimer said.
The seven-day rolling average in Westchester was a 3.9 percent infection rate.
Last week, there were two COVID-19-related deaths in the county during the past week.
In Putnam County, Sunday’s positivity rate was 2.9 percent, and 3.8 percent on the seven-day average. Percentages across the seven counties in the Mid Hudson region, which both Westchester and Putnam are part of, have been relatively consistent with the seven-day regional average at 3.1 percent.
However, there are counties upstate where the percentages have risen dramatically in recent weeks. The state’s COVID tracker showed on Sunday that in the five-county Central New York region, four of the five counties (Cayuga, Madison, Onondaga and Oswego) had infection rates ranging from 11.8 to 16 percent.
Latimer said while the declines in hospitalizations and fatalities have been highly encouraging, it doesn’t mean the pandemic has ended.
“What it may mean is that the high percentage of people that are vaccinated, while getting COVID, because being vaccinated doesn’t mean you won’t get COVID, it does mean you’ll be less severely affected by it and it’s the people who wind up being hospitalized for COVID that are the ones in the more serious situations,” Latimer said.
During the weekly briefing, Latimer invited Byram Hills Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jen Lamia, who serves as president of the Council of School Administrators for Southern Westchester. She said the county has been helpful by keeping the lines of communication open by arranging weekly virtual meetings, supplying test kits and other steps.
Despite the challenges of the past two years, Lamia said it has been uplifting for schools to have welcomed back their students this year but districts are careful to take the necessary precautions to protect students and staff.
“Our schools are open, our schools continue to be vigilant regarding COVID and it’s really due to the strength and support we received from the county,” Lamia said.
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/