Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla will be among 16 hospitals in New York state participating in a pilot program to allow family members and loved ones to visit with patients, it was announced today by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo during a news conference at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset.
Because of the highly contagious nature of the COVID-19 virus and the workload at hospitals, visitors have been banned. Under the two-week pilot program, visitors will be permitted but will be subject to symptom and temperature checks and will have to wear personal protective equipment supplied at the hospitals.
The majority of the hospitals participating in the pilot program are in New York City. If the pilot program works, then hospital visitations may be allowed statewide.
Cuomo said that the state’s Capital Region has now met requirements to begin reopening, becoming the seventh of the ten regions to meet the reopening criteria. Westchester, New York City and Long Island are the three regions that have not yet met the criteria.
Cuomo said that for Memorial Day Weekend, the state will allow small ceremonies commemorating the contributions of veterans to take place. The size of the gatherings will be limited to 10 people in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While the traditional Memorial Day parades will not be authorized, parades of vehicles will be permitted. In many communities, crowds of people normally would be lining the streets to view the parades. Any spectators for the vehicle parades would have to observe social distancing requirements. Localities would have the final say as to the form of what takes place as long as everything is within existing state requirements.
Cuomo’s announcement about Memorial Day followed yesterday’s announcement by Westchester County Executive George Latimer that the beaches at Playland and Croton Point Park would be open this coming Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Latimer said that whether the beaches would continue to remain open for the summer depends on what happens in the way of public behavior. Social distancing measures will be required along with the use of masks at the beaches. The beaches will be limited to use by Westchester residents and capacity will be reduced.
“We have to have people behaving in a certain way not because we want to tell them how to run their lives. We want to make sure the virus doesn’t spread,” Latimer said while with Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano at Yonkers City Hall. “The weather’s getting warmer now and people are going to be outside and going to a beach on Memorial Day Weekend is very much a part of things we do culturally.”
Latimer noted that the county’s third beach at Glen Island Park in New Rochelle remains closed because the state has set up a COVID-19 testing site at the park.
Cuomo said that while the continuing loss of life to the virus is disturbing, the recent trend again provides some good news in that the number of deaths yesterday was 105, comparable to where it was two months ago, and far below the outbreak’s peak in New York. Eighty-five of the new deaths occurred in hospitals while 20 were in nursing homes.
Cuomo said he believes that the cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Pediatric Syndrome that have been seen in children are just the tip of an iceberg. There are 137 confirmed cases of the illness in the state, with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reporting an equal number of unconfirmed cases in New York City, according to Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa.
“I think we spotted it in New York first. I think it’s going to get much worse before it gets better,” Cuomo said, noting that 90% of the children with cases have tested positive for having COVID-19 antibodies meaning they have or previously had the virus.
“It’s an inflammatory response to the COVID virus,” Cuomo said. “The more states that look the more states find cases. The more countries that look, the more countries find cases. So, I believe we discovered it and we’ve given the nation and the world a heads-up.”
With U.S. Senate Republicans saying the newest COVID-19 relief bill passed by the House of Representatives that contains aid for states is “dead on arrival” and President Trump saying he would veto the measure, Cuomo blasted both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Trump, although he did not use Trump’s name. McConnell has said he did not want to do a “blue state bailout” and would prefer to see states go bankrupt rather than receive additional federal aid.
“They should rise above and this should not be about politics. It should not be about red and blue. The people who are dying, they are not Democrats or Republicans; they’re Americans,” Cuomo said. “How does that work? You get the death toll and you say ‘OK, how many were Democrats and how many were Republicans?’ It’s just an ugly, repugnant concept.”
Cuomo said again what he has said before: New York sends to Washington far more in tax dollars every year than Washington sends back to New York in aid. Cuomo again pointed out that McConnell’s state, Kentucky, each year takes about $30 billion more from Washington than it sends in the way of taxes while New York gives $30 billion to Washington.
“He was just fine taking that bailout year after year after year,” Cuomo said of McConnell. “You don’t want to help New York and California? You don’t want to help the Northeast and the West because you think there are Democrats there who are dying? If the New York and California economy doesn’t come back then what happens to the other states? It’s ugly and unintelligent, which is a really bad combination.”
Cuomo said that the state now has testing capacity that is not being used. He said the drive-in testing sites can handle 15,000 tests a day but are only being called upon to administer about 5,000.
New York has had 352,845 people test positive for the virus, according to statistics obtained this afternoon from the state Department of Health. There were 32,402 cases identified in Westchester, 12,798 in Rockland, 1,159 in Putnam, 9,988 in Orange and 3,710 in Dutchess.
Statewide, there have been 22,843 deaths due to the virus. Deaths in Westchester total 1,424. Rockland saw 482 of its residents fall victim to the virus. There were no new deaths for the second straight day in Putnam yesterday, with the total remaining at 59. There have been 353 deaths of Orange County residents. In Dutchess, a total of 131 deaths have been recorded.