Cuomo announces Port Chester is a COVID-19 yellow zone; public schools closed until health requirements met
The state will impose tougher COVID-19 restrictions on Port Chester as the number of new cases and percentage of positive tests are climbing.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday the village would become a yellow zone, the first in Westchester since the state began its micro-cluster action initiative. Cuomo said during a call with reporters that he spoke with County Executive George Latimer earlier today to inform him.
"Westchester is basically flat but for Port Chester which is right on the Connecticut border, and Connecticut has taken serious, dramatic action because the numbers in Connecticut are not good," Cuomo said.
Businesses in Port Chester can remain open, but restrictions for the village include:
- Houses of worships can only allow 50% capacity.
- Mass gatherings are limited to 25 people maximum, indoor or outdoor.
- Indoor and outdoor dining can only have four people per table.
The Port Chester school district announced Friday afternoon it would close all school buildings Monday and switch to remote learning until health requirements are met. Food service is also suspended until further notice, the district stated.
According to the state, schools can remain open but will require 25% of students and staff to be randomly tested weekly.
The school district said it would provide an update Monday evening.
The yellow zone is the least restrictive of the three zones established by Cuomo. Orange and red zone designations would lead to the closure of high-risk business and non-essential business, respectively.
The county Health Department and Open Door Family Medical Center started offering increased testing for residents on Thursday that will last at least through Tuesday. The address is 5 Grace Church Street in the village.
- Friday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Saturday: 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
- Monday: 10 a.m. -6 p.m.
- Tuesday: 10 a.m. -6 p.m.
Free swab testing will also be available Saturday at the Don Bosco Community Center located at 22 Don Bosco Place in the village from noon-2 p.m. Results will be available onsite.
A community becomes a yellow zone if the area has a seven-day rolling average positivity rate above 2.5% for 10 straight days and has 10 or more new daily cases per 100,000 residents on a seven-day average, according to state guidelines.
The village has 119 active cases as of Friday, according to Westchester County. The number could be higher because there is a lag before all confirmed cases in the county are connected to municipalities.
Westchester Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler told The Journal News/lohud the village is having issues because there is a higher number of people in each household than in other communities. More testing will give health officials a better idea what the situation is like in Port Chester, she said.
"You get an individual who's positive, if there's more people living in the household than there's more exposure," Amler said.
Port Chester has more active COVID-19 cases than all but two larger Westchester municipalities — New Rochelle and Yonkers — as of Friday, according to county data. About 30,000 residents live in the village.
The county will distribute masks and hand sanitizer to community groups and meet with community leaders to discuss COVID-19 prevention and protocols. An educational campaign in English and Spanish will also be launched.
Mayor Richard Falanka said he's "very much concerned" the village is now a yellow zone as cases have increased. The village is working to tell the school district, churches, public housing and other organizations of the new restrictions, Falanka said.
Falanka feared further restrictions could follow and shut down non-essential businesses. He urged residents to practice individual responsibility.
"Hopefully we can get right on top of this and get back to getting our numbers down," Falanka said. "That we don't get elevated into another cluster zone."
Latimer in a statement urged residents to follow health guidelines.
“Wearing a mask and social distancing is not an option – you must do it," Latimer said. "I do not want to see cases continue to rise, we must make small sacrifices now to protect the entire County.”
To get a test at Open Door, make an appointment by calling 914-995-7425 or visit the Department of Health website. Walk-ins will only be accepted on a limited basis.
To get a test at Don Bosco Community Center on Saturday, call 914-995-5800 or visit the Department of Health website.
Staff Writer Nancy Cutler contributed to this report.
David Propper covers New Rochelle and the shore towns. Reach him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: dg_props. Our local coverage is only possible with support from our readers.