As Covid-19 infection rates drop, local and county officials step toward reopening—but urge caution


New Yorkers are seeing the lowest infection and hospitalization rates for Covid-19 in more than three months, and the numbers continue to decline, if more slowly in Westchester County during the past two weeks.

The county is far from out of the woods. The 14-day average of test positivity remains at a high 6% in Westchester, according to data compiled by the New York York Times. Cases have remained at the same level over the past two weeks, while hospitalizations have fallen in the county, the paper said.

The Town of Pelham has 74 active cases, and seven new cases were reported on Thursday, according to Westchester’s Covid-19 tracker.

“We have suffered enormous losses over the last year, but every day, someone new gets vaccinated, which brings us one person closer to returning to a normal way of living,” said Village of Pelham Mayor Chance Mullen.

“From day one, we have said that our Covid recovery is not a choice between public health and the economy. It has to take into account both and work for all,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Feb 22, as he announced additional reopening guidelines. “Thanks to the hard work of all New Yorkers, our infection rate is now the lowest we’ve seen in three months, and accordingly, we are now in a position to reopen more recreational activities across the state.”

During the holidays there was a jump in cases because people were gathering to celebrate indoors. In January and February, there were fewer gatherings, and with people receiving the vaccine, rates declined. The expectation is that  infections will continue to fall through the spring.

According to health officials, the new variants of the coronavirus should still be treated just as Covid-19 has been treated, with masks and social distancing. Even though vaccines are being distributed, scientists and doctors do not know if the vaccines will be effective for the variants.

“The higher the case rates are, the greater the risk and the greater the likelihood of coming up with these variants,” said Dr. Ada Huang, deputy commissioner for disease control for the Westchester County Department of Health.

Movie theatres in New York City and surrounding areas, including the Pelham Picture House, opened Friday under Cuomo’s new rules. On March 15, weddings and catered events can resume statewide with restrictions.

The Pelham Public Library reopened for in-person browsing with limited services on Monday.

With the weather getting warmer, there are more opportunities for outdoor activities and outdoor dining. People can return to family walks, bike rides and socially distanced hangouts.

“This is all springtime optimism,” said Tracy Breen, chief medical officer at Mount Sinai West. “It is getting warmer, more light. There are more outside things happening. We can start gathering socially outside. I think we have to do that all again and think about ventilation inside. I would still recommend wearing masks inside and follow those guidelines.”

As for athletics, the Pelham Recreation Department plans to hold its summer camp and other clinics. Spring varsity and JV sports will begin on April 19. The Fall 2.0 season for high-risk sports will begin on March 8. Spring championships and modified sports have been cancelled.

“I think this spring will be better than last spring,” said County Executive George Latimer. “I don’t expect any shutdowns of businesses. Whoever is getting the vaccination is less likely to get the disease. And therefore we can open things and expanded the percentage of things already open.”