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Coronavirus in Westchester: New Restrictions as Infection Spreads

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Photo courtesy of Regeneron

Travel, dining, education, and more: The local news you need to know to help protect your family and your neighbors from the spread of COVID-19.

This story is currently evolving and we will post updates as they become available.

The Latest

  • Beginning Friday, November 13, new restrictions will be put in place limiting the number of people at public gatherings and how late certain businesses can remain open.
  • Port Chester has been designated a micro-cluster “yellow” zone.
  • On-campus SUNY students must test negative before going home for Thanksgiving break.
  • Download the state’s new COVID Alert NY app to quickly get notified by your phone if you have been within Bluetooth range of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The moratorium on residential and commercial evictions has been extended through January 1, 2021.
  • The New York Department of Health has a handy questionnaire to help people determine if they need to quarantine themselves or self-isolate.

 

By order of Governor Cuomo, beginning Friday, November 13, new restrictions will be put in place throughout New York state to help curb the recent uptick in COVID-19 infections:

  • Any establishment with a liquor license (bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, etc.) must close by 10 p.m.
  • Gyms and fitness centers will also be required to close by 10 p.m.
  • Attendance at private, indoor gatherings will now be limited to 10 people, down from 50, to curb “superspreader” parties.

In response to several “hot spot” clusters of outbreak activity within New York State over the past several weeks, Governor Cuomo has unveiled policy to aggressively contain current and future flareups including strict precautionary enforcement within problematic and surrounding zip codes, as well as up to $15,000 in fines for the sponsors of mass gatherings at which the disease could spread.

Areas are divided into red, orange, and yellow “zones” centered around outbreak clusters, with varying degrees of social distancing and economic shutdown. Port Chester is currently the only Westchester locality on the list, classified as a “yellow” zone.

Due to high-risk outbreaks, visitors to or returning from the following states and territories are being asked to undergo quarantine and receive a negative COVID-19 test before venturing out into the public: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. Additionally, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania meet the criteria for the travel advisory but due to proximity and the interconnectedness of our area, a full quarantine for travelers is not feasible. As such, discretion is advised.

Officers stationed at local airports will ensure travelers fill out proper documentation for potential contact tracing, with refusal to do so punishable by up to a $2,000 fine and summons.

You can find more information about the travel restrictions here.

 


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 Is Westchester County Doing About COVID-19?

County departments are currently in communication with the state and federal government, as well as local health care providers and hospitals.

Click here to read the CDC’s official recommendations for disease mitigation in New Rochelle.

The Westchester County Health Department reached out to members of the community who may have come into contact with the patient at religious services, at New Rochelle’s Temple Young Israel. In a press release just before 3:30 p.m. on March 3, Westchester County Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler directed the temple to temporarily halt services, and those who attended services on February 22, as well as a bar-mitzvah and a funeral on February 23 are being asked to quarantine themselves through at least March 8. Further closings came over the weeks as local schools engage in precautionary cleanings, with more expected.


Read More: How Coronavirus Is Affecting Westchester Schools


On Saturday, March 7, Governor Cuomo declared a state of emergency to help medical professionals better respond to the disease’s spread. As of Wednesday, March 10, Mr. Cuomo has ordered the deployment of the U.S. National Guard to New Rochelle to help mitigate the spread of novel coronavirus COVID-19 in the city.

Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker has says the decision moves the county’s response “from a containment strategy to more of a mitigation strategy.”

In keeping with that, a containment zone has been established one mile in radius around Temple Young Israel of New Rochelle. Within that zone the National Guard will clean schools and deliver food to voluntarily quarantined residents, while schools, community centers, houses of worship, and other larger gathering spots will be closed for the next two weeks. No travel restrictions have been implemented.

From the Oval Office March 12, Donald Trump made his first comments on the response. “You see what they’re doing in New Rochelle, which is good, frankly. They’re doing the right thing. But it’s not enforced. It’s not very strong, but people know they’re being watched.”

New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson points out that the National Guard is acting exclusively in a support role “to assist in the delivery of meals, cleaning of public facilities, and the distribution of supplies. The Guard will not be engaged in any military or policing activities, and is operating purely as logistical support.” State police have likewise established a testing unit just outside the quarantine zone.

All in-person Westchester County Board and Commission meetings have been canceled in favor of video/conference calls. In-person volunteers and visitors to Westchester County Jail have been suspended. (Video visits and in-person legal counsel will still be permitted.)

On Thursday, March 12 Glenn Island Park was closed to the public. In a press conference Friday, Governor Cuomo announced the nation’s first drive-through testing facility at the site, run by Northwell Health. Tests will be conducted by appointment only (at the direction of a doctor) and are expected to yield results in 24-48 hours. By next week, the state is expecting to increase the number of tests it can run by upwards of 5,000 more per day with the help of 28 private labs.

On Tuesday, March 31 in a daily update, County Executive George Latimer announced that effective April 1and until further notice, Bee-Line busses will be reducing service to the company’s Saturday schedule until further notice, however supplemental busses and service enhancements may be added on an as-needed basis.

In the same press conference, Latimer noted that residents currently taking advantage of local parks remaining open are not practicing adequate social distancing policies, potentially forcing the C.E.’s office to close these outdoor recreation locations if people are not careful. “Don’t make me close these parks,” Latimer sternly warns.

On April 2, County Executive George Latimer introduced legislation that would allow towns to waive late payment penalties on county taxes, county district taxes, and assessments on hardship grounds through July 15. “People in this County are feeling the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many have lost their jobs,” the C.E. says. This deferment of taxes for two months is a way to buy some time for the residents here to keep themselves afloat until this pandemic passes. I want them to be focused on staying healthy, keeping a roof over their head and food on the table – the rest can wait.”

On Saturday, April 4, County Executive Latimer ordered county flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of those who have died from COVID-19. “These are not just numbers on a growing chart,” he says, “these are our neighbors. As we continue to show strength and resilience as we fight this virus, we must remember the importance of grieving the ones we have lost. My condolences go out to the families and friends of those who have left us too soon.” Governor Cuomo announced a similar state-wide decree the following day.

On April 22, Governor Cuomo announced that any reopening on New York businesses and services would be conducted regionally, in areas of decreased risk of COVID-19 spread. At the same time, he announced that elective medical procedures would also be permitted to resume on a regional basis, however NYC, Westchester, and six other counties are currently excluded.

On Monday, April 27, County Executive Latimer signed a property tax relief measure to complement the governor’s executive order waiving late payment fees of county property taxes through July 25, as well as allowing towns to reduce late payment penalties of local property taxes by us much as 80% through the same period, regardless of hardship qualifications.

“I want to thank Governor Cuomo for recognizing the need to help Westchester residents and businesses, and I want to thank the County Board of Legislators for providing an additional level of relief,” Latimer says. “I am concerned about the financial pressures that the residents of this County are under. This is the right thing to do for our constituents.”

On May 5, County Executive Latimer announced that Westchester will begin testing all nursing homes to help protect on of the county’s most at-risk populations.

On May 12, Mr. Latimer’s office announced that Westchester will be forced to cancel many of it’s annual cultural heritage festivals this year. “These are some of my favorite events to attend, but right now, we all must put safety first,” the CE says.

So far festivals through the first half oh July have been canceled, including the Polish, Asian, Albanian, African American, and Hispanic heritage festivals at Kensico Dam Plaza and the Portuguese and Irish heritage festivals at Ridge Road Park. Events through August, i.e. the Italian, Indian, Jewish, and Muslim heritage festival at the dam and the Ecuadorian Festival at Croton Point Park are on hold for the time being. All festivals and events through the fall season will be evaluated as the health crisis plays out, with further cancellations and postponements to be announced at parks.westchestergov.com.

On May 16, Westchester hospitals were allowed to resume elective surgeries and ambulatory care.

On May 18, Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) announced it has expanded COVID-19 antibody testing to the general public by appointment. Anyone interested may call 914.326.2060 from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday for screening and to make an appointment, and test results are typically returned within 48 hours. To find the nearest testing site, click here.

Soon after announcing that outpatient procedures and elective surgeries could resume in Westchester, Governor Cuomo announced a two-week pilot program to test allowing patients in 16 hospitals across the state access to in-person visitors. Most of these hospitals are in New York City and Long Island, however Westchester Medical Center will be participating locally, supplying visitors with PPE for timed visits, subject to temperature and symptom checks.

After meeting the final requirement of sufficient contact tracers, Westchester and the Mid-Hudson region began Phase One reopening on Tuesday, May 26, and Phase Two on June 9.

Westchester’s Bee-Line Busses will resume full-time operation effective June 15. Riders are still encouraged to only utilize public transit when essential and maintain six feet from other passengers when possible, and must continue to wear face masks from the time they board until they debark.

The remainder of Westchester’s cultural heritage festivals have been canceled for 2020, including the Italian Heritage Festival originally scheduled for July 19, the Heritage of India Festival from August 2, and the Jewish Heritage Festival from August 16.

Westchester municipalities may begin reopening local pools and playgrounds to residents as of June 11, but must do so with consideration of local infection and viral spread rates. Outdoors lovers will also be happy to hear that Croton Gorge Park will reopen on weekdays, though it will continue to be closed to guests to help reduce crowding through at least July 4.

Playland Park will remain closed for the rest of the 2020 season, as will its pool. Playland Beach remains open to the public.

State and local authorities are investigating and tracing a “cluster” outbreak in Chappaqua following a drive-through graduation ceremony and subsequent celebration for Horace Greeley High School students. At least 14 people are infected, including a student who did not display symptoms until after the ceremony, had recently returned from Florida — one of the high-risk states New Yorkers are being asked to undergo two-week quarantine after visiting.

 


What Else Is Being Done?

Local pharmaceutical giant Regeneron has been working with the federal government under an expanded agreement since February 4 to develop new treatments for COVID-19. The company recently announced it had secured a $450 million federal contract to develop its double-antibody treatment REGN-COV2, currently in Phase 3 clinical trials.

“We are currently identifying lead antibody candidates. In terms of timing, it will take us another couple months to prepare for preclinical testing and then probably another 5 to 6 months for potential clinical (human) trials,” says a Regeneron spokesperson. “This is a similar timeframe to our Ebola treatment, and is very fast compared to standard antibody therapeutic development.”


Read More: Regeneron’s New COVID-19 Treatment Could be Ready By End of Summer


Dr. Christos Kyratsous, PhD, and Vice President of Research, Infectious Diseases and Viral Vector Technologies at Regeneron attributed the speedy development process to the use of the company’s proprietary VelociSuite technologies, previously used to develop the company’s promising new Ebola treatment, currently under review by the FDA.

“We feel well-equipped to tackle this challenge,” Kyratsous says, “thanks to our VelociSuite technologies that enable the efficient generation of multiple fully human antibodies against viral targets — perfect for application in situations with brand new and rapidly-spreading pathogens.”

“Our team is working around the clock to apply the same tools against the devastating SARS-CoV-2 virus [the virus causing COVID-19], and we are committed to ensuring any potential medicines reach patients in need around the globe.”

On Monday, March 9, WestMed Medical Group announced that a provider at its White Plains office tested positive, likely due to the initial New Rochelle case. The DOH advises that no additional testing or self-quarantining aside from the provider are necessary, and WestMed’s offices in White Plains, as well as New Rochelle, Purchase, Rye, and both Yonkers locations will remain open, though the Stamford and Greenwich, CT locations will close to support the higher volume NY sites. Patients are advised to book urgent care visits online rather than as walk-ins. Some non-urgent appointments are being rescheduled to minimize any risk of exposure.

28 New York testing facilities are currently preparing to open for testing, per the governor’s office. He is also allocating $200,000 to a New Rochelle food bank to help with distribution to those in the quarantine zone and working with area employers to temporarily expand paid sick leave policies to better enable ill residents to stay home without financial loss. Government employees will also benefit from up to two weeks of paid sick leave, regardless of hours worked per week or otherwise accrued sick time, if positively diagnosed.

On Thursday afternoon, March 12 Governor Cuomo announced sweeping plans to limit large gatherings of people throughout the state, including banning assemblies of more than 500 people and reducing occupancy capacities of smaller venues — including bars and restaurants — by half.

Likewise, nursing homes will temporary ban non-staff visitors, while employees will be required to wear masks.

In an effort to reduce foot traffic, courts have also banned “persons at risk” from entrance and all jury trials will be postponed unless jurors have already been selected and sworn in.

On the afternoon of Friday, March 13, Donald Trump declared coronavirus a national emergency.

On March 16, Governor Cuomo mandated that all gyms, movie theaters, and restaurants/bars (other than for takeout/delivery) close for the foreseeable future effective 8 p.m.

On March 17, WestMed announced that they would further close locations in Westchester and Fairfield counties and limit appointments while postponing all elective procedures, in accordance with state recommendations to limit in-person appointments. Purchase, Rye, and Yonkers Westchester locations will remain open for various services, while patients are encouraged to book virtual teledoc visits online.

On March 19, Governor Cuomo signed a bill guaranteeing job protection and paid sick leave to any New Yorker quarantined by COVID, and is expected to sign another directing all non-essential businesses to implement work from home policies or, when not feasible, decrease on-site staff by 75%. (Shipping, media, warehouse, grocery and food producing, pharmacies and healthcare, and banks and financial companies are exempt.)

Indoor portions of shopping malls, as well as bowling alleys and amusement parks must close effective 8 p.m. tonight.

The USNS Comfort has been ordered to New York harbor to provide an additional 1,000 hospital beds.

Regeneron also announced this week that it is partnering with French firm Sanofi to test the effectiveness of rheumatoid arthritis medication Kevzara as an anti-inflammatory agent in reducing the severity of COVID-19 symptoms like fever and a need for supplemental oxygen. Anecdotal evidence from China had reported lessened effects and the U.S. trial is hoping to confirm. “In addition to our Kevzara program, Regeneron is also rapidly advancing a novel antibody cocktail for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19, which we hope to have available for human testing this summer,” says Regeneron Co-founder, President and Chief Scientific Officer George D. Yancopoulos, M.D., Ph.D.

That therapy, utilizing hundreds of recently identified viral antibodies, is hoping to enter large-scale manufacturing by April and enter human trials by the summer.

A little after noon on March 19, Governor Cuomo pledged that New York State would direct mortgage payments be deferred based on economic hardship factors without negative impact to residents’ credit ratings and without late fees. This policy would last for the next 90 days.

Late in the afternoon, Westchester County announced that more than 30 closed schools would reopen as temporary child care facilities for first responders and healthcare workers. Kids ages 5 to 12 will be checked for fever upon arrival and kept in groups of just 10 to 12 while practicing safe distancing. The service will be available weekdays from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.

On March 20, the governor mandated the closure of all personal care businesses like barber shops, hair and nail salons, and others effective  as of 8 p.m.

The governor has also issued a statement that 100% of non-essential workers remain in their homes and avoid public transportation unless absolutely necessary.

Groceries, pharmacies, and other businesses are exempt from this order. While others will have to close, the governor has placed a 90-day moratorium on both commercial and residential evictions.

On Sunday, March 22, Governor Cuomo announced that he has identified four suitable locations for the Army Corps of Engineers to erect temporary hospitals and is asking construction to start immediately. The nearest of these facilities will be at Westchester Convention Center.

Shortly thereafter, Donald Trump promised that New York would receive up to 2,000 temporary hospital beds through FEMA, the first half of which will be set up in four 250-bed hospital units in New York City’s Jacob Javits Center. Additionally, he said the federal government would waive the 25% costs of mobilizing National Guard units that states traditionally carry, and is preparing “hundreds of tons” of medical supplies for shipment to the state.

The governor also issued an executive order placing New York State on “pause” — all non-essential workers must work from home and non-essential businesses (with the previous exceptions) are now ordered to close, effective 8 p.m. Sunday. You can view the full 10-point order here.

On March 23, Governor Cuomo announced a full breakdown of federal supplies shipping out to New York State, as well as an executive order for hospitals to increase capacity by 50% at minimum (with a goal of 100%). The governor also noted that New York State has received FDA approval for the use of “convalescent plasma” therapy in extreme cases — a centuries old practice of treating patients with infusions of blood/plasma from recovered patients to introduce COVID-19 antibodies into their system.

The state government also released guidelines allowing restaurants with valid food service permits to sell “grocery items” while dine-in restrictions are in effect. The language primarily concerns ingredients, make-at-home, and ready-to-eat items “intended for off-site use or consumption.”

On April 1, Regeneron announced it would donate a half-million COVID-19 test kits to New York State, beginning as early as Monday, April 6. This comes on the same day that confirmed cases of coronavirus in Westchester County topped 10,000.

On April 6, Governor Cuomo extended the “New York on Pause” initiative through hat least April 29. Non-essential businesses will remain closed and social distancing policies will remain in effect, with the maximum possible fines for violations of this order doubling from $500 to $1,000.

On April 8, the governor also announced that all New Yorkers would be allowed to vote absentee in the primary elections scheduled for June 23.

On April 10, Governor Cuomo announced that he was working with New York’s congressional representatives to create a “COVID-19 Heroes Compensation Fund” similar to the 9/11 responders fund to help compensate frontline workers and their families after the health crisis ends.

In the same briefing, he also announced $200 million in emergency assistance for the 700,000-plus families currently receiving SNAP benefits.

On April 24, the governor issued an executive order to mail postage paid absentee ballots to every registered voter in New York State.

The governor has also issued an order to allow upwards of 5,000 independent pharmacies to conduct diagnostic testing for COVID-19, while the state will prioritize first responders and healthcare workers in its own antibody testing program.

CareMount Medical, the largest independent broad-specialty medical group in the state, has also announced that it has begun offering both antibody testing and PCR (nasal swab) testing at all of its open facilities. Antibody testing can show whether or not a person has been exposed to the virus and usually returns results within 72 hours, while PCR testing returns results in 24-72 hours and detects the presence of the COVID-19 virus (either active or viral remnants) and can help determine whether a person may be presently contagious.

The state also conducted randomized antibody testing of 3,000 New Yorkers across the state to determine a more precise rate of infection, including those who may be infected but show no symptoms. (The number is comparable to the total sample size of antibody testing in Germany, for a population more than 4 times the size of New York’s.) Preliminary results indicated approximately 13.9% of the population possesses antibodies for SARS-CoV2, however Phase II expanded testing of approximately 4,000 new residents has revised that number up to 14.9%.

Follow-up testing totaling 1,000,000 New Yorkers — more than any other state or nation, according to the governor — supports an overall state rate of approximately 12.3%.

The governor has also announced that while New York on PAUSE may continue past May 15 for some areas, certain industries may begin reopening regionally and in a phased progression, depending on infection local rates and other factors.

On April 30, Governor Cuomo outlined the basics of how and when New York would reopen following the resolution of the current health crisis. Read our full breakdown below.


Read More: New York’s COVID-19 Reopening Plan: What You Need to Know


On May 1, the governor also announced that K-12 schools and college campuses would remain closed for public safety through the end of the school year.

On May 7, Governor Cuomo extended the moratorium on commercial and residential evictions and rent payment late/missed payment fees through August 20.

New York’s stay-at-home order set to expire on May 15, has now been extended through June 13 for any region that has not hit its Phase I reopening benchmarks NY on PAUSE has likewise been extended through May 28. Regions that meet these requirements after May 15 will be permitted to begin reopening as soon as they do so.

State, county, and local beaches will be allowed to reopen beginning Memorial Day weekend, but must maintain strict social distancing policies, including mandatory masks and reduced 50% capacity. County and local beaches may also impose tighter measures at their own discretion.

Summer school will be conducted online-only as distancing policies continue into the summer. Meal plans and childcare currently being hosted at local schools will continue through the summer. A determination on the fall semester is expected to be made in June.

Beginning May 21, Governor Cuomo is permitting religious gatherings of no more than 10 people to congregate in a single location. Larger gatherings may still function electronically in addition. Memorial Day ceremonies of similar size will also be permitted at the discretion of local governments.

Governor Cuomo has extended the emergency disaster order for New York through June 21.

The governor has also signed a bill that will provide death benefits to the families of front line workers who have died from COVID-19.

Dentists’ offices may resume non-emergency services effective Monday, June 1. The department of health has created an extensive guide to safety precautions to ensure the health of both patients and staff. Low-risk outdoor activities such as golf courses and driving ranges, tennis, and non-motorized boating may resume statewide immediately. Summer day camps will be permitted to reopen June 29, though a decision has not yet been made on sleep-away camps.

The governor also announced that restaurants would be permitted to offer outdoor dining in Phase II of reopening, which could see many Westchester dining locations back up as early as Monday, June 8.

Medical schools will be permitted to reopen to students on June 22, with precautions taken to help ensure a new crop of medical workers can enter the healthcare field quickly and safely.

The state will also reevaluate its guidelines to allow for drive-up and drive-through graduation ceremonies for outgoing seniors.

Low-risk youth sports like baseball and softball, gymnastics, field hockey, crew, and cross-country may resume with up to two spectators per child as regions enter Phase Three of reopening.

Gatherings of up to 25 people may also resume in Phase Three.

Following a successful pilot program in May, partially conducted at Westchester Medical Center, hospitals may begin readmitting visitors at their discretion. Group homes may also start accepting visitors beginning Friday, June 18. Nursing homes will remain closed to visitors as the Department of Health reviews the situation.

New York State announced it will also issue guidance for local colleges and universities to safely bring students back onto campus residences and for limited in-person learning opportunities.

Senior care and facilities and nursing homes will be permitted to once again start allowing visitors starting July 20. Visits will be restricted to facilities that have not had a new COVID-19 case for at least 28 days, and only two guests will be permitted per resident per day. Temperature checks, masks, and social distancing measures will still be required.

School-sponsored sports may restart beginning September 21. Low-risk and moderate-risk sports like cross-country, field hockey, soccer, swimming, and tennis may resume but may not travel outside their home or neighboring regions for either practice or away games. High-risk sports like football, hockey, rugby, volleyball, and wrestling may begin practicing, but will not be permitted to compete until December 31 or until the NYS Health Department deems it safe to do so. For meets, spectators will be restricted to two per player, with overall 50% capacity at indoor venues.

Casinos — like Empire City Casino in Yonkers — can reopen in New York State beginning September 9 at 25% indoor capacity. Other restrictions include social distancing between machines, mandatory mask usage when not eating or drinking (not allowed on the game floor), and appropriate HVAC filtration systems similar to malls and other indoor venues. Gaming tables will also be prohibited until and unless physical barriers can be erected between players and approved by the state Gaming Commission.

New York has launched a new anonymous contact tracing app, COVID Alert NY. The app utilizes Bluetooth technology — not WiFi or GPS tracking data — to alert you if you (and your phone) have come within six feet for 10 minutes or more of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The app is completely anonymous, available in a host of locally spoken languages, and includes features like a symptom checker, the latest public health data, and even COVID-19 alerts from New York State.

 


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 against relying on surgical masks, as is popular in parts of Asia:

“Surgical masks are not effective as protection for the wearer. They don’t seal well against the skin to prevent microdroplets in the air from reaching the wearer’s face,” says Amler. “However, they are useful in protecting others from microdroplets expectorated as you cough or sneeze.”

“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.”

Fotos 593 | AdobeStock

On Friday, April 3, the CDC revised its prior guidelines and is instructing the public to where cloth masks when outside and when social distancing practices become difficult, i.e. grocery stores and other cramped spaces. FAQs and how-to guides to making your own masks can be found here and Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams provides a handy video guide below. Medical-grade masks should still be reserved for healthcare providers.

On April 15, Governor Cuomo made this guideline mandatory in New York by executive order.

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.