There’s the inclination to try and put COVID-19 in the rearview mirror, but the coronavirus clearly is not yet ready to go in Westchester County.
An uptick in infections during the past two weeks both locally and statewide have officials keeping a wary eye on whether the recent mini-wave is a result of unvaccinated people getting infected along with the emergence of the Delta variant or some other factor.
County Executive George Latimer said Monday that there has been no confirmation that the Delta variant, which medical experts say is more transmissible, is in Westchester but county and state health officials are keeping close watch.
“We’ve seen the increase in the amount of infections and it would lead me to think that there would be some exposure, but we haven’t had it confirmed by any of the folks in the medical science (field),” Latimer said.
He said his office would try and find out if there is more information related to the potential emergence of the variant locally and whether those who have been infected most recently have been unvaccinated.
Nationwide, 99.2 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in June were unvaccinated people, the Centers for Disease Control reported.
As of Monday, according to the Westchester County COVID-19 dashboard, active cases had increased to 295, up from 185 two weeks ago. The greatest number of active cases are generally in Westchester’s highest population centers, led by 65 in Yonkers, 33 in New Rochelle, 21 in Mount Vernon, 15 in White Plains and 14 each in Greenburgh and Rye City. The only other municipality in double digits in active cases was Eastchester with 11, according to the dashboard.
Despite the case increase – on Sunday, Westchester had 33 positives from 2,925 tests – there are just 14 COVID-19-related hospitalizations, up from 11 two weeks ago after a brief uptick to 19, Latimer stated. During the three-day span from Friday through Sunday, there have been 101 new cases in the county, as fresh infections have seemed to settle in the low 30s on a daily basis during the most recent stretch.
Putnam County had only two infections from 253 tests on Sunday.
Additional good news is that during the past two weeks there have been no fatalities linked to the virus in Westchester. The death toll remains at 2,293.
Over the weekend, the statewide positivity rate reached 1 and 1.1 percent, the first time since May 23 and 24, infections have been as high as 1 percent.
The recent rise has also correlated to a recent sharp slowdown in vaccinations, Latimer said. On Monday, there were just 168 appointments made for the first dose of the vaccination at the County Center in White Plains, a facility that was administering about 2,200 shots a day earlier this year. Appointments are no longer needed to receive the vaccine.
Latimer said there has been no indication that the County Center will be shut as a vaccination site, with appointments booked through Wednesday. That would mean the facility would stay open at least a few more weeks for people returning for their second dose, he said.
Between the County Center, the clinics at Westchester Community College and the Health Department and the Yonkers armory, Westchester has administered nearly 444,000 since mid-January. That number does not include pharmacies and pop-up sites.
“It appears that everyone who wants a vaccination has received it,” said Latimer. “So now we’re dealing with that portion of society that is vaccine hesitant or vaccine resistant.”
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
Mental Health Diversion Program
Latimer also announced Monday that the county is implementing a program to divert emergency 911 calls for those with serious mental health needs from police to behavioral health services.
The program, called 911 Diversion, seeks to identify those with mental health issues as well as those who are in crisis but who pose no threat to others to receive appropriate services rather than have law enforcement respond.
The initiative came out of one of the 52 recommendations that were made by the county’s Police Reform Task Force and submitted to the state.
“The county is embarking on this as a first step in order to try and make sure that we can identify and divert callers who have serious needs as well as those in crisis who pose no danger to others,” Latimer said.
When 911 calls have been received, there has been a response from police, fire or EMS services. Once the training is complete, a fourth category will be behavioral health services.
Latimer said it has been determined by the county that there would need to be eight crisis intervention teams to properly cover Westchester. He anticipates that the first three teams will be trained and in action by October.
The training is being provided through the federal Substance and Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.