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COVID-19: Westchester, Rockland County Execs Share Thoughts On Day 1 Of Reopening

Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Rockland County Executive Ed Day discuss the COVID-19 outbreak.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Rockland County Executive Ed Day discuss the COVID-19 outbreak. Video Credit: Zoom video

The county executives from Westchester and Rockland convened to discuss Day 1 of Phase 1 of the reopening of the Hudson Valley region amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

The region - which includes Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester counties. - met the required metrics set forth by the state to begin reopening after nine weeks of shutting down due to the COVID-19 virus.

On Tuesday, May 26, the day the region was given the green light to kickstart some non-essential businesses, Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Rockland County Executive Ed Day met on a Zoom call to discuss the trials and tribulations they now face moving forward as they begin recovering from the virus.

“We’re entering Phase 1 together, which includes construction, manufacturing, curbside retail, wholesale distribution, agriculture, and forestry,” Latimer said. “We have so many people in Westchester who work in Rockland, and so many in Rockland who work in Westchester, so our futures are linked together.”

The two noted that Rockland borders New Jersey, and Westchester borders Connecticut, which has complicated efforts to reopen economies.

“We’re not just acting in a vacuum here in the Hudson Valley,” Latimer added. “We have other states that are impacting us and having an effect on us.”

Day, leaning on his experience during a previous measles outbreak in Rockland, said that the regions have established “war rooms” and continue to investigate COVID-19 cases, with an army of contact tracers working around the clock to help curtail the spread of the virus.

“(Contact tracing) is a tremendous tool. We’re looking to interrupt the virus, and this has been a proven way to do it,” he said. “The work that’s been done resembles a command and control center. All our (previous experiences) have and continue to come in handy now as we face down the virus, which rivals the (Spanish Flu) pandemic of 1918.”

During the 21-minute conversation, Day said that the opening phase of reopening “sends a great message” to the community as a whole.

“The fact that we have all these businesses that can open up and move forward sends a great message,” he said. “We’ve been down for weeks upon weeks upon weeks now, and for the people of our counties to be able to see them start opening up, I think it’s critically important.

The county executives noted that the region is taking a similar tact to the rest of the state: “opening the valve” slowly and monitoring the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s critically important that people understand that we’re not just flipping the switch … we’re doing things in a controlled manner,” Day added. “There is going to be a lot of requirements for businesses to make sure they practice proper health practices.” 

In Westchester, there have been 33,107 (23.1 percent) positive COVID-19 cases, which resulted in 1,345 fatalities. There were 58 new positive cases in the past 24 hours, according to the Department of Health.

In Rockland, there have been 13,019 (26.9 percent) positive COVID-19 cases, leading to 392 fatalities. There were 23 new COVID-19 cases reported overnight.

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