COVID infection rate continues downward trend

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Overall, COVID-19 infections appear to be on a state and local downward trend after a holiday season-induced number spike, data indicates.

This was also evident on a local level in separately reported numbers from Oneida County.

In a Monday update on the statewide COVID-19 situation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that as of the most recently available 24-hour numbers, Jan. 24, there were 167 deaths; 8,730 COVID hospitalizations and a 5.47% positivity rate of tests for the virus. From Friday to Sunday, the seven day average percentage of new positive cases for the Mohawk Valley ranged from 7.08% on Friday to 6.61% on Sunday. 

Cuomo said with an eye toward ensuring infection rates keep going down as economic recovery efforts are sought ... keep wearing masks, social distancing and adhering to other health protocols.

“Don’t be cocky with COVID … this beast changes on us all the time,” he said.

Vaccines in the healthcare industry

Statewide, certain regions such as the Finger Lakes and Bronx are still areas of concern in terms of infection rates, hospitalization rates are still going down, as people are starting to socialize less after the holidays and vaccines continue to roll out, Cuomo said, adding that 72% of healthcare workers have been vaccinated. 

But, there are high and low pockets of healthcare workers being vaccinated in each region. In the Mohawk Valley he noted that hospitals such as Bassett Healthcare are reporting 89.3% of their staff as being vaccinated and on the low end, Rome Memorial Hospital has 54.4% of staff vaccinated.

“Why?,” Cuomo asked of the low end numbers.

Rome Memorial Hospital provided the following statement in response to Cuomo’s remarks: “Rome Memorial Hospital has been out of vaccine since January 13. Initially, the state allocated only 400 doses for hospital staff at highest risk. Many more have been vaccinated as the guidelines allowed more support staff to receive the vaccine. However, demand outpaced supply quickly as the state opened up eligibility to additional priority groups,” explained Infection Prevention Director Emma Ingalls. 

The statement continues: “The hospital reports on a total of 1,025 employees, including full-time, part-time and per diem staff, as well as 176 medical providers who may have privileges at other hospitals. Many per diem staff and providers have received it elsewhere but have not provided the hospital with documentation of the immunization yet ... So, the percentage doesn’t reflect all those who have been immunized.”

The hospital notes it has been actively promoting vaccination.  

“In addition to providing written education, clinical leadership rounded daily throughout hospital departments “myth busting” and encouraging vaccination,” Ingalls stated. “The overwhelming message was ‘the only way this ends, is with the vaccine. ...Healthcare workers want to be vaccinated and are actively encouraging others to be vaccinated because it is safe and effective.”

A reaction from the state calls for more collaborative efforts to streamline numbers.

A statement from Erin Silk, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health noted, “This data is all self-reported, and we are simply asking hospitals to report their total number of staff and the number vaccinated – but to the extent that staff for one hospital are receiving vaccinations from another provider, hospitals and providers should work together to ensure the state has the most accurate, up-to-date data. This will allow us to make sure our hospital staff are being vaccinated, as maintaining hospital capacity is a top priority.”

Vaccine delivery

In his briefing Cuomo noted that in recent weeks, the amount of vaccines available from the federal government to the state has not been dependable, and that there are plans in place at the federal level to provide states with better numbers ahead of time regarding how many vaccines they are expected to receive, and when.

In a separate announcement Monday evening from Cuomo’s office, it was noted that as of 1 p.m. Monday, state health care distribution sites, “have received 1,304,050 first doses and administered 91% or 1,180,468 first dose vaccinations and 71% of first and second doses.”

Another vaccine delivery is expected towards the middle of this week, a statement notes.

For additional information on vaccine rollout, visit: https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/covid-19-vaccine-tracker

Oneida County

In Oneida County COVID-19 numbers released Monday for the 24 hour, Jan. 24 period also continued to illustrate a downward trend in new cases.

Jan. 24 saw 83 new cases. However, there were two COVID-related deaths bringing the total to 319 deaths in Oneida County since counting began last year.

According to records, the last time there were less than 100 new COVID cases reported during a 24 hour period in Oneida County was on Nov. 11, when there were 73 new cases. This, a downward trend mirroring other parts of the state discussed in Cuomo’s Monday briefing.

Also in the reflection is the struggling availability of vaccines.

“Oneida County Government is out of vaccine and was forced to close its county-operated vaccination sites at (Mohawk Valley Community College) in Utica and Griffiss in Rome. Those sites will not be taking new appointments until more is provided by New York State. This does not affect second doses for those who received their first dose at either one of our sites,” The county notes in a statement.

To view the updated Oneida County COVID-19 Dashboard, visit: https://bit.ly/39dEtPb

Vaccine distribution issues

On Monday, state Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon, D-Marcy, sent a letter to state officials noting her disappointment the Utica-Rome area was not selected to serve as a pop-up site for COVID-19 vaccine kit distribution, according to a statement.

“As a representative of one of the most diverse areas in New York State, I’m concerned about the numbers of COVID cases in our communities and about the difficulty our community members have had with getting vaccinations. Our community is diverse in terms of racial, ethnic, and cultural makeup, and a significant portion of our neighbors struggle with their English language skills and/or digital fluency. It is unfathomable that the Governor speaks of aiding the health and safety of those of color and yet fails to make them a priority when COVID-19 popup sites are established. I urge immediate action to alleviate this oversight and urge the Governor and his team to prioritize the Utica-Rome area for future pop-up vaccine distribution sites,” she said in a release.

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