With the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) stabilizing in the original epicenter of the United States outbreak, New Rochelle, the nation’s first containment zone has come to its conclusion.
Earlier this month, an attorney from New Rochelle became the second in the state to test positive for COVID-19.
The virus rapidly spread in the city and then throughout the NYC metro area, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to enact a one-mile containment zone around the Young Isreal of New Rochelle Synagogue, where he attended multiple crowded events before testing positive.
During the initial containment, between Thursday, March 12 and Wednesday, March 25, the governor ordered that all large gathering spaces, schools and places of worship be closed as a precaution as they attempted to stem the spread of COVID-19.
The National Guard was also called in to assist with the distribution of food and essential items.
“When the containment zone was established on March 10, it was rightly seen as a forceful and appropriate measure to confront an emerging hotspot," New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson said. "Just one week later, each and every one of its restrictions was overtaken and exceeded by state-wide limitations, rendering the New Rochelle-specific rules effectively meaningless.
"To all intents and purposes, all of New York is now a containment zone, and most of America is not far behind. This is a sobering indication of how quickly the virus is upending public policy goals and expectations. Yet there is also tentative good news: preliminary data shows that New Rochelle is declining as a percentage of positive cases in the region, which suggests that the early adoption of restrictions in our city may have helped slow the virus, as intended.”
Most of downstate New York has since entered similar protocols.
New Rochelle - once the hottest cluster for COVID-19 cases in the country, according to Cuomo - has since seen a dramatic slowdown of positive cases.
“We’ve seen a slower rise in the number of New Rochelle cases than we have seen in other communities,” Westchester County George Latimer stated.
According to Latimer, as of Wednesday, March 25, there were 234 COVID-19 cases in New Rochelle, the most in the county, ahead of Yonkers (201 cases), Greenburgh (63), Port Chester (51), Scarsdale (39), and Eastchester (38).
"You see what they're doing in New Rochelle," New York Donald Trump said earlier this month, "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 - that's a hot spot."
There have been no reported deaths in New Rochelle related to COVID-19, though some have been hospitalized.
"We are still tracking cases in that area of Westchester County, but we do believe that the effectiveness of decreasing the numbers of people at large gatherings has happened (in New Rochelle),” New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said this week.
Statewide, there have been more than 30,000 confirmed novel coronavirus cases.
Since the outbreak, New Rochelle has followed the state’s lead in closing all schools, restaurants and non-essential businesses. They’ve also been conducting mobile testing of dozens of people at Glen Island Park.
“In Westchester, we have dramatically slowed what was at one point an exponential increase (in confirmed cases), and we’ve slowed that some,” he said. “So again on the good news side, it shows that you can slow the rate of infection. Just look at what we did in New Rochelle when it was the hottest cluster in the United States. We closed schools, closed gatherings, brought in testing and we’ve dramatically slowed the increase.
“Now look at Nassau (County), it was around zero (cases) when the Westchester outbreak started and now it has almost as many cases. So we know what we have to do to begin slowing it.”
Zucker said “we’ve moved from a containment strategy to a mitigation strategy. We believe the most important thing is to minimize the community spread. We know where the center of the virus occurred, and we felt a radius of a mile from that spot would be effective to try and decrease the spread.”
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