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One of the First Virus Hot Spots in the U.S. Is Under Siege Again

The seven-day average test positivity rate in Westchester has climbed to about 5 percent, far higher in some areas: In Peekskill and Ossining, the rate among those who have been tested is about 10 percent. In November, the state designated Port Chester, on the Connecticut border, as an “orange zone,” shutting down in-person schooling and closing certain businesses.

“The first time through we didn’t really realize how severe it would get, so we were learning as we went along,” George Latimer, the Westchester County executive, said. “There was a sense that we took the best shot that Covid could give us, but we survived it, and things got better — but the virus isn’t done with us.”

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Parts of New Rochelle, as well as parts of Yonkers, Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown, have been labeled yellow zones, requiring measures like weekly coronavirus testing for 20 percent of the student population, among other steps. As of Friday, there were 5,968 active cases countywide — more than double the number two weeks ago — and over 290 people were hospitalized; numbers on par with what they were in May.

Controlling the spread, which is dispersed across the region, is particularly problematic in Westchester. During the virus’s recent resurgence, about 70 percent of infections have been tied to private gatherings, according to the state’s contact-tracing efforts.

“When the virus is contained to one geographic area, or one source of spread that is easily controllable, it is easier to ‘close the valve,’ either geographically or by industry,” said Gareth Rhodes, the state’s deputy superintendent of financial services and a member of Mr. Cuomo’s coronavirus task force.

Now, with six cluster zones scattered across the county, he said, the virus “is geographically more dispersed than just one area, and the ability to conduct enforcement of gatherings in private homes is much more limited.”

There are other striking differences from the pandemic’s earliest days here: Where the initial outbreak was first detected among a middle-class community connected to a local synagogue, the disease is now afflicting the predominantly blue-collar workers in the denser pockets of Westchester’s towns. And as hospitals fill up again, doctors in the area have learned new treatment strategies, like delaying the use of ventilators.

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