Too Early to Determine if Small Reduction in COVID Cases is a Trend

A small reversal in COVID-19 active cases locally is providing some hope that the summer surge in cases may be ending.

During the past week, active cases fell in Westchester from more than 2,700 to 2,659 as of last Friday. In mid-August, there had been nearly 2,800 cases representing the highest total since last winter’s peak of about 11,500.

“We’re watching a certain amount of flattening in the increase in infection and a very slight decrease in the hospitalizations, and while it’s too soon to call it a trend, two weeks is not enough to make that judgment, it is an encouraging sign,” said Westchester County Executive George Latimer.

In late June, active cases fell to between 100 and 200 in the county.

In Putnam County, active cases have also inched downward during a two-week time frame. On Aug. 20, the county’s weekly tracker showed 130 cases while last Thursday there were 120. There was just one COVID-19-related hospitalization in Putnam last week and no deaths in at least two weeks. The death toll there stands at 94.

However, the positivity rate by region remains stubbornly unchanged in recent weeks, according to the state’s tracker. On Sunday, the Mid Hudson region had a 3.7 percent positivity rate, with a 3.6 percent rate on the seven-day average. With the exception of New York City’s 2.4 percent rate on both Sunday’s daily results and seven-day average, the other eight regions of the state posted positivity rates of between 4.1 and 7.3 percent.

On the week-long averages, other than the Southern Tier, the area of the state that borders Pennsylvania that was at 3.2 percent, all other regions were between 4.2 and 5.3 percent.

Latimer remained cautiously optimistic that with the high rate of vaccination in Westchester and with the summer bump in cases plateauing at about 2,800, that it was the vaccines that kept the numbers from rising any higher. The 11,500-active caseload, reached at about the second week of January just after the first vaccines were rolling out, is about four times the summer high.

Westchester has about 80 percent of its 18-and-up population vaccinated, comprising nearly 700,000 people.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have also backed off slightly during the past two weeks, Latimer said. The late June low fell to single digits while the summer high of 110 was reached about two weeks ago. Just before the Labor Day weekend, that number had diminished slightly to 99, he said.

In those two weeks, however, the county has lost 10 people to the coronavirus, raising the Westchester pandemic death toll to 2,311.

One of the recent deaths was an inmate at the Westchester County Jail, a man in his early 50s, Latimer said. The man had refused getting the vaccination despite being offered, he said.

Latimer said he is proud that a large swath of the county workforce is vaccinated, with 10 departments at 100 percent and most of the remainder of the departments at about 80 percent.

“We’ve done it without mandating it, but we have done it by working with people, by bringing the message to them, trying to overcome objections, and having the information, we think will help us,” he said.

The recent full authorization of the Pfizer vaccine by the Food & Drug Administration has helped convince some people to get the jab, Latimer said.

The County Center, which has served as the county’s main vaccination hub, reopened last Friday following flooding caused by Hurricane Ida. Latimer said the facility will remain a vaccination center for the foreseeable future, especially if a third dose of the Pfizer and/or Moderna vaccines is authorized.

The county is also partnering with all school districts on a testing plan for staff and students that will be in effect for this school year and there will be more pop-up vaccination sites at schools in hopes of encouraging more 12- to 18-year-olds to get the shot, he said.

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