LIBERTY, NY — With COVID-19 cases spiking dramatically in Sullivan County this week, Sullivan County Public Health Director Nancy McGraw is urgently encouraging residents to stay masked in …
LIBERTY, NY — With COVID-19 cases spiking dramatically in Sullivan County this week, Sullivan County Public Health Director Nancy McGraw is urgently encouraging residents to stay masked in close public quarters and to get themselves and their families fully vaccinated.
“We’re seeing cases climb very fast, consistent with much of the rest of the nation,” said McGraw. “The most serious of these cases continue to be unvaccinated people, who remain far more vulnerable to coronavirus than those who have been vaccinated.”
As of Friday, December 3, Sullivan County had 476 active COVID-19 cases, with 1,110 others in quarantine/isolation due to exposure. Eleven people were in the hospital, with three in intensive care.
“This is the highest number of active cases we’ve had since April of 2020, when COVID was just starting here,” McGraw pointed out. “Around 80% of the hospitalizations we’ve been seeing have been of unvaccinated individuals. The remaining 20% who end up needing hospital care have been among partially or fully vaccinated individuals with underlying health conditions that put them at high risk such as obesity, hypertension, asthma, COPD or diabetes. The breakthrough percentage among vaccinated individuals is very low, demonstrating that vaccination works to protect from serious illness and death.”
The New York State Department of Health has been closely monitoring hospitalization rates, noting that fully vaccinated New Yorkers have an 89.8% lower chance of being hospitalized with COVID-19 than those who are unvaccinated.
According to the CDC, while COVID-19 vaccines are working well, some people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will still get sick, because no vaccines are 100% effective.
“This is why we continue to urge vaccination, so that people are reasonably protected and our healthcare system is not overwhelmed. In addition, taking your chances of getting COVID-19 by not getting vaccinated puts you at higher risk of long-term health complications and possible disability from long-COVID,” McGraw explained.
“At the very least,” she added, “everyone should be wearing masks when they cannot socially distance from others (six feet or farther away). Masks are proven to greatly reduce chances of infection, not only of coronavirus, but other transmissible diseases like the flu.”
Sullivan County continues to update its website with Public Health clinics, which can be viewed (and registered for) at https://sullivanny.us/Departments/Publichealth/COVIDvaccines/clinics. The page also provides a link to other area vaccine providers that may have more convenient times and locations.
Currently, Public Health has pediatric clinics (ages 5-11) set for 3-6 p.m. at the RJK Middle School in Monticello on December 20 and Public Health Services’ Gladys Olmsted Building in Liberty on December 22; and booster clinics scheduled for December 8 (1-5 p.m.) and December 29 (3-5 p.m.) at the Olmsted Building. Booster shots do not have to match the brand of the original dosage but are only available to those over 18.
Unlike other counties in New York, Sullivan only briefly dropped its emergency declaration in mid-summer. County Manager Joshua Potosek reinstated the state of emergency in August, and it has continued ever since.
“My office, Public Health and all our departments continue to take COVID-19 very seriously, and we have worked very hard to inform the public about how they can combat this virus at home, at work and in places they patronize,” Potosek affirmed. “That’s borne out by the fact that 72.5% of our population over 18 has received at least one dose of COVID vaccine, with the highest vaccination rates being in our most vulnerable 55+ population.”
“We will continue to emphasize the message of personal responsibility – that it’s up to each of us, all of us, to remain vigilant and protect ourselves and our families,” he stated.
McGraw added that her team continues to monitor for cases of the approaching Omicron variant.
“At this point, it appears Omicron is highly transmissible but fairly mild in symptoms,” she explained. “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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