Coronavirus in Westchester: Vaccine and Mask Mandates

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As the highly-infectious Delta variant spreads, New York is mandating vaccination for certain employees while the CDC revisits masking up.

The Latest

  • New York State is mandating vaccinations — or weekly testing in some cases — for certain state employees.
  • The CDC is recommending citizens in certain counties re-adopt mask guidelines in the face of the COVID-19 Delta variant.
  • The moratorium on residential and commercial evictions is extended through October 3 for most Americans.
  • All state-run vaccination sites now accept walk-up appointments. Get all the information you need about vaccines here.
  • Download the state’s COVID Alert NY app to be notified if you have been within Bluetooth range of someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Use this New York Department of Health questionnaire to help people determine if you need to quarantine or self-isolate.


At the end of July, the CDC has reversed course and recommended the re-adoption of mask guidelines for anyone living in high-caseload counties, as the highly-infectious COVID-19 Delta variant — first identified in India — continues to surge through the U.S. Though all U.S.-approved vaccines remain highly effective against the Delta variant, its increased virality can also lead to rarer “breakthrough” cases in vaccinated individuals and transmit to others.

While New York reviews the information, the CDC recommends masking up indoors and in other high-risk situations in the following New York counties:

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  • Westchester
  • NYC
  • Nassau and Suffolk
  • Orange
  • Greene
  • Saratoga
  • Warren
Mask wearing is once again recommended for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in orange-coded counties. | U.S. Center for Disease Control

At the same time, New York State is mandating that all state employees receive vaccinations by Labor Day, September 6, or receive mandatory weekly COVID tests. This includes the State Senate and State Assembly and their staffs, with similar mandates in local municipalities like New Rochelle. Patient-facing healthcare workers in state-run hospitals will also require vaccinations, but will not be permitted the option to test out. Westchester County offices will remain open to the public, but require masks for visitors and unvaccinated employees at all times, and vaccinated employees when in common areas. Masks will also be required at Playland, as well as common areas at county pools.

While Westchester County has yet to adopt mandatory vaccinations, county government is surveying its departments and plans to release a list of departments that reach 100% vaccination status. County employees who are vaccinated will also receive four free passes to Playland as incentive.

The federal government has extended the moratorium on evictions through October 3 for any Americans in areas with “widespread” COVID-19 cases — effectively 90% of U.S. residents.

469 days since we began posting this running update of vital COVID-19 pandemic news, Governor Andrew Cuomo today, June 15, 2021, officially lifted pandemic restrictions on most industries as the state surpassed its goal of 70% adult vaccination. Unvaccinated individuals will remain personally responsible for following recommended guidance, including masking up and social distancing. Pre-K through 12 schools, healthcare services, and and several others will also continue to follow guidelines until more New Yorkers are vaccinated. School districts, however, may now choose to lift outdoor mask requirements for students. (Masks will still be required indoors.)

In celebration, the state will light several local landmarks—like the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge—blue for the occasion, and will launch fireworks will at approximately 9:15 p.m.

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Restaurants may continue to serve alcohol to-go for an additional 30 days, through July 5.

The midnight curfew for bars and restaurants has been lifted for both indoor and outdoor dining.

New York plans to resume full in-person schooling this fall. To encourage students—and presumably since they were ineligible for the state’s $5 million COVID lottery—anyone ages 12 to 17 who receiving (or who has already received) their vaccinations can apply online to be one of 50 students given a full, free ride to any NYS public college or university, including tuition, room and board, and even an allowance for books and supplies.

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State-run sites throughout New York, including the National Guard Armory in Yonkers, will give a free scratch-off lottery ticket to residents 18 or over receiving either their first Pfizer or sole Johnson & Johnson dose. First prize is $5 million.

State guidance for the safe reopening of summer camps can be found here.

The FDA has expanded emergency use authorization of COVID-19 vaccines to 12 to 15-year-olds.

NYS public opened for Memorial Day, May 31 with social distancing in place of set capacity guidelines, with the goal of opening to 100% capacity by July 4.

Beginning Fall 2021, all SUNY and CUNY schools will require a vaccination for in-person students, pending full FDA approval of the vaccines. Limited medical and religious exemptions will be permitted, and the state is encouraging private institutions to follow suit.

How We Got Here

On Tuesday morning, March 3, Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed that a male New Rochelle resident in his 50s with an underlying respiratory illness tested positive after seeking treatment at Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville. He has since been moved to the City for further treatment. Though the man, a lawyer, has not recently traveled internationally to at-risk locations, his work in Manhattan and commute suggest person-to-person contact.

By Wednesday, the number of cases had risen to 10, including the family of the first patient and a friend who drove him to the hospital. As of Thursday, March 5, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 21. Over the weekend, further testing has raised the number of confirmed cases to about 70, and in a press conference Tuesday, Governor Cuomo announced another 16, bringing the total number of confirmed Westchester cases to 98, later revised to 108, making the Westchester outbreak the largest in the United States. By Sunday, March 15, the number of confirmed cases stood at 196.

On Monday, March 16, County Executive George Latimer declared a local state of emergency to allow for more rapid response to situations as they arise. The order also closes all public and private schools in the county. Governor Cuomo has also ordered the closure of all theaters, casinos, and dine-in restaurants as of 8 p.m. Gatherings of more than 50 persons were also prohibited.

On March 17, Mr. Cuomo froze collections on state-referred debts — like student loans — for at least 30 days. Many libraries throughout Westchester have closed to promote social distancing, but have worked with digital providers like Kanopy, Hoopla, and TumbleBooks to increase the availability of free digital content to the public.

For the official New York Department of Health COVID-19 tracker with county-by-county, demographic, and comorbidity breakdowns, click here.

On May 8 and 9, Governor Cuomo announced that an inflammatory syndrome affecting children called MIS-C may be related to COVID-19. Though seemingly rare, parents are urged to seek immediate medical aid if their child experiences:

  • Prolonged (greater than five days) fever
  • Severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, or vomiting
  • Rapid or troubled breathing
  • Chest pain or rapid heart rate
  • Decreased amount or frequency of urination
  • Lethargy, irritability, or confusion
  • Change in skin color (pallor, patchiness, and/or turning blue)
  • Difficulty or inability to breast feed of drink fluids.

Sadly, by Monday, May 10 three children in New York had already lost their lives to the inflammation, including a 7 year-old girl from Westchester County. In the following week, the number of suspected juvenile cases has risen to more than 100. The governor is ordering hospitals to prioritize COVID-19 testing of children who exhibit such symptoms.

What Should I Do to Avoid Getting Sick?

According to the dedicated New York State Health Department and Westchester County pages on the subject, the best ways to avoid coronavirus are to stay calm, avoid travel to affected regions, and stay clean:

  • Wash your hands often, for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand sanitizer, throughout the day
  • Avoid touching eyes/nose/mouth with unwashed hands
  • Clean commonly used surfaces often.
  • Cover your nose/mouth when you sneeze or cough
  • Wear a mask or other face covering in public places where social distancing is not viable, such as the bus, grocery stores, etc.

As those with already compromised immune systems are more vulnerable, Westchester County also suggests that anyone who has not already done so this season get their flu shot immediately.

Dr. Robert Amler, Dean of New York Medical College’s School of Health Sciences and Practice and former medical officer at the Center for Disease Control, also cautions residents:

“The most important thing you can do to protect yourself and others from the spread of any disease, including coronavirus, is to keep at least six feet away from people who are sneezing or coughing, and frequently wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap, or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Also try to keep your hands away from your face, and stay away from others if you do become sick.”

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What to Do If You Think You Might Be Sick

The county is urging residents with questions to call 211 between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. seven days a week for the most up-to-date information.

Do NOT go to straight the emergency room if you experience coughing, fever, or shortness of breath. Call ahead to give the hospital time to prepare. Per Dr. Amler, you can wear a surgical mask to protect others from exposure.

Again, while so far exceedingly rare, an inflammatory condition amongst children known as MIS-C is thought to be related to COVID-19. Seek medical attention for your child if they exhibit any of the following:

  • Prolonged (greater than five days) fever
  • Severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, or vomiting
  • Rapid or troubled breathing
  • Chest pain or rapid heart rate
  • Decreased amount or frequency of urination
  • Lethargy, irritability, or confusion
  • Change in skin color (pallor, patchiness, and/or turning blue)
  • Difficulty or inability to breast feed of drink fluids

Worried you might have to self-isolate or quarantine? This handy decision tree from the New York State Department of Health uses simple questions to help you determine whether you need to seek treatment or isolate yourself after possible exposure.

To find a testing site near you, click here.

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