A look back at how Westchester County Center played a role in battling COVID-19
Westchester County was in the national spotlight at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic with one of the first cases found in the area.
News 12's Lisa LaRocca takes a look back at how the Westchester County Center in White Plains played a major role in fighting the deadly virus by transitioning to a medical facility.
One of the first cases of COVID-19 was diagnosed in New Rochelle three years ago. Then Gov. Andrew Cuomo decided the state needed to more than double its capacity of hospital beds, naming the County Center as one of several sites chosen to transform into a makeshift hospital.
The Army Corps of Engineers was brought in to build 56 hospital rooms inside the main arena and another 54 in white tents out in the main parking lot.
"We had no roadmap to go by," says County Executive George Latimer. "We knew for the sake of the County Center that one of the first things we had to do was shut down any activity here, and that was difficult."
Westchester Medical Center played a huge role in helping to create all of it.
"We were designated by the state as the vaccine hub for the Hudson Valley," says Joshua Ratner, vice president of Westchester Medical Center. "So, part of what that meant was we had to build a mass vaccination plan that we then had to disseminate to all of the hospitals, all of the physicians' practices, any other pharmacy providers, and become the go to resource for how to vaccinate the public."
Latimer says there were as many as 2,000 people a day getting vaccinated at the County Center.
Three years later, the County Center reopened to host an event that it's known for -- the Section 1 Basketball Tournament.
Mike Lani, the head of the maintenance crew at the county-owned arena, says the center has been home to sporting events, concerts, graduations and trade shows for 93 years.
Lani says it was great to see the seats full once again.