County Executive Latimer enacts mask mandate for schools amidst largest Covid spike since June


“We lost 12 people in two months, now we have lost 12 people in two weeks,” Westchester County Executive George Latimer said in his Covid-19 briefing this afternoon.

Westchester has seen a rise in Covid-related deaths in the past weeks. There are 1,033 active cases as of today, a large jump from the summer months, as the county broke 1000 on Sunday. The last time Westchester had 1000+ Covid-19 cases was on June 6. The cases peaked Oct. 16 with 58 people hospitalized. Latimer noted that unlike past Covid spikes there is no single incident that this spike can be traced to.

Latimer touched on the importance of wearing a mask, saying, “There are some conflicting voices out there in the world, you can certainly consult Dr. Google any day that you’d like and find any alternate voices to what the professional medical community provides… People will hunt looking for the advice that they want and find a source telling them they can practice the behavior that they want to practice.”

He went on to say that the virus has more dangerous consequences for the elderly and immunocompromised and that wearing masks protects friends and family.

Latimer said that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in charge in regards to the pandemic, superseding the power of county legislators and mayors, making the large scale decisions and restrictions over the past months. However, Latimer went on to announce a mask mandate for all schools in Westchester County, calling it a “common-sense requirement.” This mandate applies to public, private, parochial and charter schools. Masks can only be removed in schools during vigorous activities, mask breaks, eating or due to medical issues. The county has not attached any penalties to school districts for lack of enforcement as of yet.

Latimer announced an assessment of youth sports in Westchester county, not shutting them down, he reassured, but saying that the safety of the kids and the adults is the highest priority. Covid cases have been increasing in leagues, professional and local, and according to Latimer there is sufficient power within the county health commissioner to restrict the activities. As always, Latimer said, they would defer to the restrictions put in place by the state, but other than those restrictions the county will take action.

Latimer was asked if he thought Governor Cuomo needs to enact broader restrictions, to which he responded by saying that he thinks Cuomo is relying on local governments to act responsibly for their area.

The Westchester county government will be reducing staff and having employees work remotely in order to decrease the spread of Covid-19.

Bridget Gibbons, director of economic development for Westchester, announced a new program to enhance the county’s economy, called Launch 1000. Deborah Novick, director of entrepreneurship and innovation, explained that Launch 1000 will allow the start of 1000 new businesses in Westchester County, fully remotely. The program can be done completely from home – training, workshops, feedback from experts, etc. – and laptops will be available to those who require them. Novik added that program requires 10 hours per week and that applications will open soon on the Westchester Catalyst website.