By Barrett Seaman—
Given the steady rise over recent weeks in the number of active cases in each village—particularly Sleepy Hollow—the announcement by Governor Cuomo on Thursday that both communities, along with New Rochelle, Yonkers, Ossining and Peekskill, have qualified as micro-clusters comes as no surprise. The designation signals that the infection rates in these communities has topped 2.5% on average over seven days. The state describes a Yellow Zone as “precautionary,” which brings with it heightened restrictions, specifically:
*No more than four persons at a table in restaurants that must close at 10:00 p.m.;
*No private gatherings of more than 10 persons;
*No other gatherings of more than 25 persons;
*50% of capacity in houses of worship;
*Schools that remain open must have 20% of students, faculty and staff tested after two weeks until they lower the infection rate to acceptable levels.
A community that surpasses 3% would qualify as an Orange Zone. Currently, only Portchester is so designated in Westchester. To qualify for Red Zone status, the most serious category, a community would have to have a 4% infection rate.
To be relieved of the restrictions imposed by designation as a micro-cluster, a community must demonstrate a “decline in positivity (daily seven-day rolling average) over a 10-day period AND have positivity below 1.5% (seven-day rolling average) for at least three consecutive days at the end of the 10-day period,” according to the State Department of Health metrics.
That will be hard in a county that continues to show rising infection rates. The seven-county Mid-Hudson region as a whole has an infection rate of 3.8%. Westchester County is at 4%. As of Wednesday night, Sleepy Hollow had 75 active cases, including nine new; Tarrytown had 32 active and one new. Dobbs Ferry, which is also running high, had 42 active cases. By one approximate calculation, Sleepy Hollow’s infections, as a percentage of those tested, was close to 5%—and perhaps as high as 7.5%, while Tarrytown was 1.85%. By that measure, Sleepy Hollow could qualify as either an Orange or even a Red Zone.
At first, officials in the two villages did not know exactly which parts of their communities were covered by the Yellow Zone designation and which were not. But on Thursday afternoon, state officials did provide a map showing that the zone encompassed everything from the northern border of Sleepy Hollow village (excluding the Manors) down to Franklin Street in Tarrytown, and from the Hudson River to the top of Neperan Avenue and Wilson Park.
The public school district, which spans both villages, was scheduled to reopen Friday, November 20, after completing a 14-day quarantine period following the Halloween outbreak that infected 17 students. Following the governor’s announcement, however, Superintendent Chris Borsari informed the district community that, “As a result of this designation, and to allow time for us to dialogue with village, county, and state officials, all schools and students in the District will operate on an all-remote instructional model tomorrow, Friday, November 20, 2020.” He also promised to update the community on Saturday what the plans will be going forward. “In the meantime,” wrote Borsari, “it is critically important that we take this designation, and the growing infection rate it represents, seriously if we are to reopen our schools and keep our community safe.” With Thanksgiving now a week away, it would not be surprising if the schools stayed closed past the holidays.
Up and down the rivertowns, the mood is one of caution and concern. Dobbs Ferry announced that, as of Saturday, Village Hall would henceforth be open by appointment only. A drop box is available for residents to drop off applications, payments or paperwork, or otherwise call various village departments and leave messages.
For the county as a whole, County Executive George Latimer announced the launch of a new series of Public Service Announcements (PSAs) in both Spanish and English that will be delivered through flyers, robocalls and on local TV channels. They urge citizens to remain vigilant and practice proper social distancing. Latimer said, “Our outreach includes public communication with individuals. If we fail to reach people, if they fail to modify their behavior to suit the crisis of the day, then the crisis continues.”