The Westchester County Center, which was converted into an auxiliary hospital facility to help handle a possible overload of COVID-19 patients will be kept as a hospital at least for the time being even though the county has passed the peak of the current COVID-19 outbreak, according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
While acknowledging that the County Center is blocked from being used for other things, Cuomo expressed concern that a second wave of infections from the virus could be more severe than the first wave.
The number of hospitalized patients was kept down when the economic shutdown and social distancing slowed the spread of the virus. No patients had to be admitted to the County Center.
Cuomo told an Albany news conference he wants to maintain the hospital facilities at the County Center in White Plains, the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan, SUNY Old Westbury and SUNY Stony Brook as emergency capacity in case there’s a COVID-19 flare up during the fall flu season.
A total of 110 hospital rooms were built on the main floor of the County Center and in four tents erected in the parking lot just south of the building along Route 119. Unlike the setup at the Javits Center that uses a pipe and drape system to separate the beds, actual rooms with ceilings were built at the county center, using framing and wallboard. Electrical wiring was run inside of the walls and there were built-in oxygen lines, air handling ducts and other features.
“I don’t want to have asked the federal government to build capacity then take it down and then wind up with another problem,” Cuomo said. He said he would be discussing the matter with Westchester County Executive George Latimer.
Cuomo reported that the demand on food banks has been increasing dramatically, and that in Westchester it is up 200%. He said the state is committing $25 million in emergency funding for food banks and urged philanthropies to also help fund the operations.
Cuomo announced a plan to launch what’s to be called the Nourish New York Initiative. Because of a disruption to wholesale and distribution channels, some upstate New York farmers have been unable to get their produce and milk to market. He said under the initiative, there will be a partnership with dairy producers in the state to process excess milk into products such as yogurt, cheese, sour cream and cream cheese that will be distributed to food banks and those in need.
The governor said the farmers would be paid for what they supply. Involved in the initiative are the Dairy Farmers of America, the Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Chobani Yogurt, and Cabot, a co-op of farm families. Six state officials will be organizing the effort.
Cuomo released the latest data from the state’s testing program designed to determine how many people have COVID-19 antibodies, indicating they were exposed to the virus and their bodies had been fighting it.
The latest data showed that 14.9% of the 7,500 New Yorkers tested had the antibodies, compared with 13.9% reported a week ago when 3,000 people had been tested. The data indicated that about 25% of the population of New York City may have been infected with the virus.
He said additional testing will include 1,000 NYC police, 1,000 NYC fire fighters, 3,000 health care workers and 1,000 transit workers.
In Westchester and Rockland, 15.1% of those tested were positive, an increase from the 11.7% who tested positive the week before. Those tested in Westchester and Rockland were 6.6% of the total tested.
Cuomo reported that the number of people admitted to hospitals yesterday with the virus was 1,052, just slightly below the 1,087 recorded the day before. There were 337 deaths yesterday, continuing the downward trend in the death toll. Nursing homes had 24 of the deaths while 313 were in hospitals. Statewide there have been a total of 17,303 deaths according to statistics obtained this afternoon from the Department of Health.
New York had 291,996 people test positive for the virus. There were 28,007 cases identified in Westchester, 11,366 in Rockland, 925 in Putnam, 8,238 in Orange and 2,793 in Dutchess.
There were 1,077 deaths in Westchester. Rockland saw 384 of its residents fall victim to the virus. Putnam lost 43 residents, while 219 Orange County residents were fatalities. There were 66 deaths in Dutchess.
Cuomo’s Secretary Melissa DeRosa reported that the Department of Labor had paid $3.1 billion in unemployment insurance claims as of last Friday. Cuomo said the state did not have unlimited funds to keep paying as more and more unemployment insurance claims are filed.
“That’s why the federal government has to provide funding,’ Cuomo said, referring to the $500 billion the National Governors Association has requested. “We don’t have the money. It depends on how many people moving forward ask for unemployment benefits and how long it goes on. It’s in the billions of dollars, there’s no doubt about that.”