Omicron Variant Found in Westchester, COVID Counts Up In Scarsdale

imagesIn light of rising COVID counts, County Executive George Latimer declared a state of emergency in Westchester on Monday December 6 and announced the first Omicron case in the county on Tuesday December 7. His statement says, ““Earlier this afternoon we were informed that there is a confirmed case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in Westchester County. The positive case is in a 13-year-old Westchester County resident. We are concerned about this discovery and are closely monitoring the situation. With the new variant circulating, the best way we can protect our families and ourselves is by being vaccinated, and by getting a booster shot if you are eligible.

“Additionally, I have officially signed the State of Emergency Executive Order for Westchester County. I am taking this action to combat the Delta and Omicron COVID variants. There is currently a public health threat, I know it has been many months, I know you are tired but we – together - must take action to be better prepared to fight COVID and the new variants.”

In local news, COVID counts are on the rise in the Scarsdale Schools as well, but so far, no serious illness has been reported. In the period from Friday December 3 to Monday December 6, 11 new cases were reported in the Scarsdale School District, 4 staff members and 7 students. Since the beginning of the school year in September there have been 62 cases reported, half of those in the past 4 to 5 weeks.

According to Assistant Superintendent Eric Rauschenbach here are the latest COVID stats:

-Over the past week the numbers have increased to 26.6 cases per 1,000 daily, which puts Scarsdale into the highest CDC rate for transmission.

-Scarsdale is at a 1.32% infection rate which has not been seen since our last major spike last winter.

-The positivity rate in Scarsdale is 3.7%.

Asked about the latest cases, Rauschenbach said, “There are a mixture of symptomatic and asymptomatic cases, none of which have been severe and no one has been hospitalized.” The new cases occurred with 50% in the unvaccinated and 50% as breakthroughs in vaccinated people.

Asked to explain quarantine rules, Rauschenbach referred listeners to an FAQ page on the district's student services web page.

Rauschenbach said that the district would reinstitute snack after the winter break on January 3, 2022 and that more details will be sent to parents.

He also shared the fact that the gym at Heathcote Elementary School is not in use because it was built without mechanical fresh air exchange. Physical education classes are now being held outside, in a multipurpose room in pods and non-traditional spaces. Funding for the ventilation work were part of the 2018 bond and bids for the work will be presented at the next board meeting. The work is expected to be done this summer.

Commenting on this information, Diana Cohen of 1 Heathcote Road and the mother of a six year old said, “About the pandemic –it is getting better not worse…. The death rate in the county is zero. It’s much, much better than where we were last year. “ Cohen asked for more information about PE classes at Heathcote. She said, “Why can’t they crack a window in the gym? What else can we be doing? Why are we planning for this now? Why didn’t we take care of this in the summer? If we can’t have a PE program, maybe we should have a different special.”

Also in COVID news, Rauschenbach shared that there will be eleven performances including band and choral concerts in the schools between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Without clear guidance from the Department of Health and the state, the district has set a policy to allow 50% capacity in the auditoriums, filling every other seat. He said there was a miscommunication to middle school parents that said that two parents per student could attend each performance.
There was considerable discussion about increasing capacity by allowing more density from vaccinated parents.

Dr. Hagerman said that the district will reach out to parents again in January to ask for vaccination counts. Once they have that data they can reconsider district policies.