Region Edges Toward Phase I Reopening; 10-Person Religious Ceremonies to Be Allowed

We are part of The Trust Project

Westchester and Putnam counties are moving closer to following much of upstate New York in a limited reopening as the number of deaths and COVID-19 cases continue to fall statewide and locally.

The updated numbers from New York State showed that the seven-county Mid-Hudson region, which includes Westchester and Putnam, has seen the three-day rolling average of COVID-19-related deaths drop to seven. That mirrors the reduction in deaths statewide, which were 106 and 112, respectively, on Monday and Tuesday.

Under the state’s metrics, the region must have either 14 consecutive days of declining deaths or fewer than five deaths in a day on the three-day average. The Mid-Hudson region has had five consecutive days of declining deaths.

Minimizing deaths is the next-to-last category the region must comply with in order to begin a Phase I reopening, which would allow for construction, manufacturing and curbside retail.

The other category needed is having the requisite number of contact tracers – at least 30 for every 100,000 residents – before reopening. That is largely an administrative function of the state and members of the regional monitoring group, which has typically put the tracers in place a day or two after a region hits the other six thresholds.

Over the past few days, the region has seen a sharp drop in new COVID-19-related hospitalizations. It now stands at 1.55 new hospitalizations per 100,000 residents, comfortably below the state standard of 2.0 per 100,000. Statewide there were 295 new hospitalizations on Tuesday, the lowest number in more than two months.

As long as the other categories are maintained, including having at least 30 percent of hospital and ICU beds vacant, robust testing and at least 14 days of declining hospitalizations, it can reopen. Mid-Hudson has had 36 consecutive days of fewer hospitalizations.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer said he felt confident that the region would begin Phase I within the week.

“I think we’re very close on most things,” Latimer said. “We are trying to put together the contact tracing program that the governor expects each region to do and I think that’s for us to aggressively put into place.”

In Westchester, active COVID-19 cases on Tuesday fell to 2,091, down from a high last month of nearly 12,000.

Since Mar. 1, 1,305 Westchester residents and 58 Putnam residents have died from the virus.

As of Wednesday, the seven upstate regions have all entered the Phase I reopening. The capital region, which includes Albany, reached that goal today. Western New York, including Buffalo, qualified on Tuesday.

Limited Attendance Allowed at Religious Ceremonies

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that starting Thursday in-person religious ceremonies can resume with up to 10 attendees.

Cuomo said after that consulting with the state’s Interfaith Advisory Council it was agreed during a time of high stress services and ceremonies may be a source of comfort to religious communities.

“I understand their desire to get back to religious ceremonies as soon as possible,” Cuomo said. “As a former altar boy, I get it. I felt at this time of stress, where people are so anxious and so confused, I think these religious ceremonies are very comforting. But we need to find out how to do it safely and do it smartly.”

The announcement came a day after the governor said that Memorial Day ceremonies of no more than 10 people can be held. He also gave the green light for communities to hold vehicle-only parades to commemorate the holiday.

Public Can Vote on Face Mask PSA Video

During Cuomo’s daily briefing Wednesday, five 30-second videos were unveiled on the importance of wearing a face covering to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The public can view the handful of videos that were selected as finalists, out of more than 600 videos submitted statewide, and vote for their favorite at

Cuomo said that the data from more than 8,000 antibody tests administered to downstate transit and healthcare workers, New York City police and firefighters and state police and corrections officers uncovered that all of those frontline workers were being infected with the virus at a lower rate than the general population. All have been wearing masks.

“It’s amazing how effective that mask actually is,” Cuomo said.

We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.