George Latimer cites 19 active cases in New Castle, one in Bronxville, and reaffirms county’s commitment to open responsibly.
Town of New Castle and New Castle Police Department issue stern warnings for further violations.
Press briefing on recreational impact focuses on Playland Amusement Park: Latimer describes a tough decision not to reopen a beloved and historic facility for the first time in its 92-year history.
White Plains, NY— Westchester County Executive George Latimer yesterday reported 19 active cases of COVID-19 in New Castle, up one case since the day before and from the five cases initially reported on a Sunday following a June 20th Horace Greeley High School graduation. The cases in New Castle have been traced back to two students’ travel to Florida, where it is believed they became infected, and to a break with social distancing and mask wearing protocol at both a subsequent graduation drive in ceremony and ‘field nights’ events following graduation. In a prior briefing, Latimer called the resulting cluster “a cautionary tale.” He also noted that the outlook for containment is different today than it was earlier in this pandemic “with the widespread availability of Covid testing” and resident cooperation with a mandated quarantine and cooperation with contact tracers. One active case was also recently reported in Bronxville.
The Governor has since ordered everyone who attended the New Castle events to self-quarantine until July 5, and a group of Westchester based contact tracers are calling households to track more possible infection and guide residents further. Kids from other communities also attended field night events which apparently spread infection further. “Greeley covers the Pleasantville post office and has numbers from other communities who might have gone out… Students from neighboring high schools came as well.”
Meanwhile, in an e-newsletter to the community last night entitled “Our Actions Today Will Save Lives,” the Town of New Castle sternly addressed those who flouted the rules or would consider doing so again; the letter included ample warning of potential civil and even criminal consequences. “We have reached out to and spoken with the Governor’s Office and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office for guidance on how to best enforce social distancing orders whether through civil sanctions and fines or criminal prosecutions,” the letter stated. Chappaqua’s Police Department Chief James Carroll outlined a series of potential fines and even potential jail time for flouting rules and violating the order.
At the afternoon briefing, which streamed live, Latimer noted 408 active cases across the county; he noted the significant progress in those numbers, too. “We once had 12,000 cases, so being down to under 500 is a very good sign.”
“We want to open up our society, responsibly, to avoid people losing their life over this,” Latimer said.
In Westchester, 266,962 people have been tested for COVID, which is about 27% of the population. 34,338 tested positive since the beginning of March. Last night, while only one Westchester resident died due to COVID (compared to ’45-50 some nights’), Latimer reminded, “That’s somebody’s loved one.”
Latimer also shared news of park closures around the county, most prominently, the closing of Rye’s Playland Amusement Park for the first time in the park’s 92-year history (Playland Amusement Park opened in 1928). He described the closure as ‘emotional’ for him. “There was a lot of drive and determination to make Playland come alive, so it’s the last thing I wanted to do…” The decision comes in tandem with an executive order “to shutter all amusement parks in New York.” The north part of Playland, including its beach area, will remain open. (Note, the Inside Press has inquired for an official list of closures and openings and will update to here as received.)
The closures around the county, Latimer said, come with an approximate price tag of about $130 million in lost revenue.
“Sales tax is a big loser, hotel tax revenue is lost, summer parks revenue is down dramatically…although six golf courses will remain open (due to ‘natural social distancing’ associated with this activity)…we have had more revenue from our golf courses in the past.”
As for the total impact of the budget: “We won’t be spending as much, so it may not be as dramatic as we think.”
North Salem Town Supervisor Warren Lucas representing the Town of North Salem was invited to this briefing; he spoke proudly of a historic and bucolic northern Westchester town and its 1200 acres of open land and trails. There have been complaints., he said, of visitors flouting social distancing rules, too. “At the beginning of this, my biggest question was “when can the horse shows start up again…I’m glad for the opportunity to talk about this town.” He mentioned the town’s work with Feeding Westchester and members of the local Lion’s Club and high school volunteers who are reaching out to those in town, who financially speaking, “have run out of funds.” Today, Latimer plans a briefing focused on the economic impact of COVID and “how to deal with the work force impacted… and the fiscal impact on small businesses, large businesses and not for profits.”
He also said he plans an update about a county task force formed to address police reform since the death of George Floyd, and to continue the work toward racial justice.