After a difficult fall and winter where COVID-19 cases spiked to alarming levels, a steady two-week drop has given way to cautious optimism.
Westchester County, which had been stuck between 5,000 and 6,000 active cases since early March until a couple of weeks ago, reported Monday a drop of just over 1,000 cases during the past week.
As of Sunday, there were 4,110 cases in the county, a sharp reduction from 5,128 a week earlier and from 5,868 on Apr. 4.
Similar good news was reported regarding COVID-19-related hospitalizations, with 150 people hospitalized, down from 192 last week and 238 on Apr. 4. Fatalities that had been totaling between 20 and 30 people a week since early March, also fell to 12 last week. That pushed Westchester’s death toll since the start of the pandemic last year to 2,246.
County Executive George Latimer said that steadily rising vaccination rates could be playing a role in limiting the spread, serious illness and deaths from the disease.
“We look for trend lines, and a lower trend in active cases, a lower trend in hospitalizations and a lower trend in fatality all points to something very positive happening,” he said.
As of Sunday, 32 percent of the county’s nearly one million residents had been fully vaccinated, according to the county. Another 14 percent of the county has received one dose of either the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, Latimer said.
On Monday, the County Center in White Plains administered its 200,000th dose since it opened just over three months ago. That venue, along with the county’s two clinics at Westchester Community College and in White Plains and the Yonkers armory have provided 288,678 doses through the weekend.
Latimer said that even with last Tuesday’s pause of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine because six women suffered blood clots about three weeks after receiving their shot, which included one fatality, there is plenty of doses for most people to find a vaccine if they want one. However, residents should still make an appointment for their vaccine and not attempt to walk in.
“We are approaching the point where there’s greater supply than demand but we’re not at that point yet,” Latimer said.
On Monday, the state also reported solid headway in seeing the reduction of transmission rates and serious health consequences in most areas of the state. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said statewide COVID-19-related hospitalizations Sunday stood at 3,783 and ICU patients at 836, the lowest total for both since Dec. 4. Sunday’s statewide transmission rate of 2.94 percent was the lowest since Nov. 13, just before the holiday season surge.
However, there are still warning signs. The Western New York region, which includes Buffalo, had by far the worst transmission rate Sunday of the 10 regions, standing at 4.78 percent on the seven-day rolling average. By comparison, the four next highest regions stood at 3.25 percent for Mid Hudson, 3.10 for Long Island, 3.07 for New York City and 3.04 for Finger Lakes.
The Capital region was at 2.2 percent with the remainder of the state’s regions below 2 percent.
Cuomo urged New Yorkers to stay vigilant and for residents to keep one another safe, even though the state is into its 14th month fighting the pandemic.
“Your community determines your infection rate, you determine your infection rate, your family determines your infection rate,” he said.
Through Sunday, the state has administered more than 13.4 million doses, with 5,659,417 people fully vaccinated and another 8,326,432 people having received their first dose.
For information on eligibility and vaccination sites, the public may call 1-833-697-4829 or visit https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/
Recreation Choices to Expand
With the overall reduction in transmission, Latimer announced Monday that two county beaches, Croton Point Park and Playland, will open for Memorial Day weekend and will operate on weekends until June 25. After that, Playland beach will be open daily through Labor Day while Croton Point Park will be open Wednesday through Sunday for the summer.
The county’s four pools – Saxon Woods, Sprain Ridge, Tibbetts and Willson Woods – will be open every day from June 25 through Labor Day.
The amusement park at Playland will open Saturday, June 26 and operate Wednesday through Sunday. It will also be open on Monday, July 5 and Monday, Sept. 6, which is Labor Day.
Latimer said if there are transmission increases, the county will shut down one or more of any of its recreation venues.
“We recognize that these recreation facilities are essential to the quality of life and to the mental health of individuals who have been cooped up for so long as we are now into the second year of this pandemic,” Latimer said. “It’s a balancing act. “We thought we found the right balance last year. We hope that will be true this year.”
Cuomo announced that museums and zoos statewide will increase capacity to 50 percent next Monday, Apr. 26. Movie theaters will be allowed to have 33 percent capacity next week as well.
Large indoor sports arenas will allow 25 percent attendance starting May 19, in time for the start of the NBA playoffs, Cuomo said.