Covid cases on the rise

By LIAM MAYO
Posted 12/7/21

SULLIVAN COUNTY — Sullivan County has hit or neared all-time high records in several COVID-19 metrics this past week.

According to the county’s COVID-19 dashboard, there were 476 …

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Covid cases on the rise

Posted

SULLIVAN COUNTY — Sullivan County has hit or neared all-time high records in several COVID-19 metrics this past week.

According to the county’s COVID-19 dashboard, there were 476 active cases as of Friday, December 3, the second highest number since the start of the pandemic (the county had 516 active cases at its highest point on April 16, 2020).

(Testing may have been less common earlier in the pandemic. That data was not immediately available.)

The county’s seven-day rolling average of new cases was 48.4286 on Wednesday, December 1, according to the CDC’s county level COVID-19 tracker; this was the highest rate in Sullivan County since the pandemic began.

Public health director Nancy McGraw addressed the upswing in a video posted on the Sullivan County Public Health Services Facebook page.

“Just like many other counties, we have begun to experience an increase in the number of cases,” said McGraw, adding that the county had seen between 40 and 50 new cases a day.

“We expected this to be over by now, but unfortunately we still have a ways to go, to get more and more people vaccinated before we can really get through the end of it,” she said.

As of Friday, December 3, 41,148 people in Sullivan County have completed a course of vaccination, and another 4,960 have had at least one dose.

McGraw said that vaccination rates in the county varied across age groups. While around 80 percent of county residents age 55 and up were vaccinated, vaccination rates were around 7.6 percent in children ages five to 11 and around 45 percent in children ages 12 to 17.

“We’re really focusing on our youth,” she said. “We want to keep schools open, we want to keep kids in school.”

Legislative discussions

The rising case numbers came up in discussion at the Thursday, December 2 meetings of the Sullivan County Legislature.

“We’re becoming very lax,” said legislator Nadia Rajsz.

Rajsz said that the county should focus on encouraging people to wear masks in establishments and retailers, and that the county’s schools might have to go remote.

Legislator Luis Alvarez agreed, citing rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in schools.

During public comment for the public safety and law enforcement committee, county resident Catherine Scott said that the county should be doing more to promote its vaccination clinics and to combat vaccine misinformation.

“Good people are getting sick and some of them are dying because they are getting information from bad sources,” Scott said.

In further public comments made during the economic development committee, Scott highlighted the impact that rising COVID-19 cases could have on Sullivan County’s economy.

The economic boom the county experienced during the pandemic was largely from people leaving the COVID-19 hotspot of New York City seeking safer ground upstate, she said. With vaccination rates in the city now higher than those in Sullivan County, that exodus might turn the other way.

As of Friday, December 3, around 72.6 percent of Sullivan County’s 18 and up population have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to between 83.6 and 97.6 percent of the 18-and-up population in the five counties that make up New York City, according to New York State’s vaccination progress-to-date webpage.

Omicron variant

Adding to the threat of rising COVID-19 case numbers is the approach of the omicron variant.

First identified in South Africa, the omicron variant has recently begun to spread around the globe.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Thursday, December 2 the discovery of the first five cases of the omicron variant in New York State. One was found in Suffolk County, and the other four were found in New York City.

The Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center Laboratory is monitoring COVID-19 samples from across the state, sequencing them to identify circulating and new variants including omicron, according to Hochul’s press release.

There isn’t enough data as of yet to determine what effect the omicron variant may have when it reaches Sullivan County. According to McGraw, her team continues to monitor the county for potential cases.

“At this point, it appears omicron is highly transmissible but fairly mild in symptoms,” said McGraw in a Friday, December 3 press release. “However, we don’t yet know how it will behave in our population and if current vaccines will be effective against it. So we’ll have more to share as we are notified by the NYS Department of Health.”

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