YONKERS, Westchester County (WABC) -- Westchester County marked the one-year anniversary of its first COVID-19 case Wednesday, this as another vaccination mega-site run by the state of New York and FEMA opened in Yonkers.
County Executive George Latimer held commemoration ceremony in the lobby of the Michaelian Office Building in White Plains, where the county's "Ribbons of Remembrance" memorial now stands.
Westchester has lost over 2,000 lives to the virus to date, and the first large scale outbreak in the East Coast occurred at the Young Israel of New Rochelle synagogue, with the so-called patient zero a congregant, a lawyer who lives in the area.
Soon, a one-mile radius of the Wykagil neighborhood was designated a containment zone, and later, the state's first mass testing location opened on Glen Island.
"What today is about is remembering those we have lost, not as merely an integer or statistic, but as human beings and the valued members of our community that they were," Latimer said. "While in this last year we have rallied together in so many ways, it is imperative we also take time to grieve and heal together."
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The solemn event began with an interfaith prayer service led by Father Luke Hoyt, from Holy Innocents Catholic Church; Rabbi Annie Tucker, from Temple Israel Center; and Imam Shaffieq Chace, from Islamic Center of New Rochelle.
"In this year where we have all experienced so much pain and loss, we stand in solidarity as brothers and sisters praying for safety and healing for our families, our community, and our world," Tucker said.
The prayers were followed by remarks from Latimer, Jenkins, and Board of Legislators Chairman Ben Boykin; poems read by the county's Poet Laureate B.K. Fischer and the county's Youth Poet Laureate Danielle Kohn; and a musical interlude from a string quartet made up of students and faculty from White Plains High School.
At noon, Latimer led the county in a moment of silence remembering those we have lost.
This commemoration will continue again later in the evening, when Latimer will lead a county-wide applause for health care workers in recognition of the life-saving, stress-filled work they have done during these tumultuous times.
Latimer directed flags at all county facilities to be flown at half-staff in honor Westchester residents who have died from COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the new FEMA site opened at 8 a.m. at the National Guard Armory recruiting center in Yonkers with a line stretched around the block.
"Here, it was very easy," vaccine recipient Donna Joseph said. "The first day they said you can apply, I did. And I got right on, no problem."
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Yonkers mom Lela Yasin said that waiting by the computer paid off. The 38-year-old has underlying health conditions and two children at home.
"That's my biggest fear, my children getting sick, and we can't really do much about it," she said. "So this is going to be good for them. It protects them a little bit."
For the first week, the site is only open to residents of Yonkers and Mount Vernon. It will be open to all eligible Westchester County residents after that.
The site is expected to vaccinate 1,000 individuals a day and will operate with extended hours to better reach local residents.
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