COVID deaths pass 200 in Oneida County

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Oneida County reported three deaths related to COVID-19 on Wednesday, for 201 fatalities in the pandemic so far.

Two of the people who died were residents of nursing homes.

In addition, the county reported 270 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, for 3,946 known active cases. The total includes 17 people who are residents of nursing homes.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 140 county residents were hospitalized with COVID-19: 18 in Rome Memorial Hospital, 110 in the Mohawk Valley Health System in Utica and New Hartford, and 12 at hospitals outside the county. Of the total, 10 patients are nursing home residents.

The county’s positive-test rate averaged over a week was 9.1%, among the highest in the state. Highest was 11.8% in Genesee County in the Finger Lakes.

The Mohawk Valley region’s hospital bed availability rate stood at 30% averaged over the past week, down from 31% Tuesday, and its availability of intensive care beds at 27%, unchanged.

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that 89,000 New York residents have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including 22,000 in 90 nursing homes.

State Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-47th Dist. of Rome, said he concurred with Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. that the primary responsibility for planning COVID vaccination distribution should be with county health departments. Picente on Tuesday took issue with Cuomo’s plan to have hospitals receive doses under federal guidelines.

“Local public health departments throughout the state have proven that they have the experience, abilities, training and infrastructure needed to effectively oversee the vaccine distribution process,” Griffo said. “It makes the most sense to allow these entities to do so and to augment the process with other support if necessary.”

Cuomo also said Wednesday that the state Health Department is exploring how to allow up to 6,700 fans into the Buffalo Bills’ stadium for the NFL team’s playoff game in early January.

The idea is to give fans a rapid-result test and if they are negative, allow them to enter the stadium.

It could serve as a test of how to hold events before a critical mass of people are vaccinated, which experts estimate at 75-80% of the national population and could take until next fall or even another year, Cuomo said.

“We cannot go through a year with the economy shut down,” Cuomo said. “We’ve only been at this 10 months. We could not do another nine months, 12 months. The next challenge for next year is how does the post-COVID world realign economies and society.”

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