As strong progress has been made the past couple of weeks in reducing COVID-19 infection rates and increasing vaccinations, state and Westchester County officials are planning to increase outdoor activities and capacities.
On Sunday, New York State registered a 2.39 positivity rate, the 12th consecutive day that the state has been below 3 percent. This followed Friday and Saturday where the infection rate dipped to pre-holiday season levels of 1.8 and 1.9 percent, respectively.
Statewide hospitalizations from the coronavirus dipped on Sunday to about 3,100, the lowest since Thanksgiving, and the 729 COVID-19 patients in intensive care and 434 intubations also represent lows not seen since the week after Thanksgiving.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo welcomed the upbeat news, but cautioned that it shouldn’t mean residents stop taking precautions, including mask wearing and social distancing, whenever possible.
“(The) 2.39 is great progress in reducing the positivity rate of COVID, but the fact that 41 New Yorkers passed away (on Sunday) also makes a point that we’re not out of the woods, and people are still dying, so take it seriously,” Cuomo said.
As a result of the progress made in recent weeks, Cuomo announced Monday that the New York State Fair in Syracuse will be held this year from Aug. 20 to Sept. 6 at 50 percent capacity.
He also announced that outdoor stadium capacity can increase from 20 to 33 percent; offices from 50 to 75 percent; casinos from 25 to 50 percent and gyms and health clubs from 33 to 50 percent.
At the county level, Bicycle Sundays will resume this weekend along the Bronx River Parkway from White Plains to Scarsdale from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Those will run every Sunday through October, except for May 30, July 4 and Sept. 6.
However, fireworks programs at Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla on July 3 and Playland on July 4 will not take place. The popular cultural heritage festivals will also not occur this year for the second straight summer.
Similar to the state level, the decline the past two weeks in cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Westchester has been encouraging. County Executive George Latimer said Monday that active cases have fallen by nearly 1,000 for the second week in a row, down to 3,208. Since Apr. 12, cases have fallen more than 1,900, from 5,128.
COVID-19-releated hospitalizations as of last Saturday were 131, and there were just four deaths during the past week, including four days where there were no fatalities, Latimer said.
He said he was hopeful that the hospitalizations will fall under 100 in the next week or so and active cases dip under 3,000.
Vaccinations across Westchester continue to surge, although there is some concern that vaccination rates will plateau at a number that will not enable the county or the state to reach herd immunity. The state continues to loosen requirements for the vaccine. Last week Latimer and Cuomo appeared together in Yonkers to announce that people at least 60 years old can show up at the Yonkers Armory for a vaccination without an appointment.
Since vaccinations began in January, 352,743 people in Westchester have completed their series, and about 490,000 have had at least one dose, Latimer said.
“We believe that is the path out of this pandemic and that is through vaccination,” he said.
Latimer said there is a path to getting at least 60 percent vaccinated in Westchester given the amount of demand that remains, but will wait and see how much beyond
“There are still targeted groups that haven’t been fully activated and I think that will happen,” he said of the 60 percent threshold. “We probably will be in a better position in about a month from now as we approach the Memorial Day weekend to really have a hard estimate about how far we can get voluntarily.”
Over the weekend, federal health officials announced that starting Tuesday the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine will be available. The Putnam County Department of Health will be using the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines at a site in Garrison on Tuesday and a clinic in Brewster on Thursday. Anyone at least 18 years old who lives, works or attends school in New York is eligible.
To sign up, visit https://www.putnamcountyny.com/covid-19-vaccine-information/.
“From homebound residents to college students nearing the end of their semesters, rolling up their sleeves for a single dose has helped to keep individuals safe as well as contributed to the overall vaccination rates in the county,” said Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell. We are glad the processes in place to ensure vaccine safety worked and now we can keep Putnam healthy and moving in the right direction.”
According to the state tracker, 48 percent of Putnam residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Putnam is slightly ahead of the statewide average of 44 percent.