Oneida County reported nine COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday, the most in one day since the pandemic arrived in March.
Of the nine deaths in the 24 hours that ended at midnight Wednesday, four were nursing-home related, according to the county. The previous highest number of deaths was eight, on Jan. 9, and before that, seven, on June 10 as the first wave of the pandemic locally took its toll.
“It is deeply troubling that nine more of our families have to suffer such tragic loss at the hands of this pandemic,” Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. said in a statement accompanying the daily COVID-19 report.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with them as we continue to fight COVID-19 on all fronts. This deadly reminder is further evidence of how desperately needed the vaccine is. Oneida County needs more. The lives of our people depend on it.”
The deaths came as the number of new test-confirmed cases each day continued its general decline, to 176 from a pandemic high of 364 at the start of January. The county now has 7,165 known active cases and 7,011 resolved cases.
As of the end of Wednesday, there were 134 county residents with COVID-19 hospitalized in the county, including 19 at Rome Memorial Hospital and 115 in the Mohawk Valley Health System, as well as another 16 patients outside the county.
The rate of tests in the county that indicate COVID-19 stood at 6.8% on a weekly basis, down from 6.9% as of Wednesday, according to the state tracking dashboard.
Regional hospital capacity was at 26% of all beds available, compared to 25% a day earlier, and intensive-care capacity was unchanged at 24% available.
The statewide positive-test rate was 6.2%.
As for vaccinations, Oneida County reported 280 new vaccines given at its county-run site at Mohawk Valley Community College and 174 at Griffiss airport in Rome, for 4,278 vaccinations given so far since it began the program in early January. It had 520 remaining doses to give, and had used 92% of its allocation.
Rome Memorial has given 2,781 vaccines and the Mohawk Valley Health System 7,972, including 6,546 first doses and 1,426 second doses, according to the county.
Meanwhile, elected officials called for action on vaccine distribution.
State Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-47th Dist. of Rome, announced that he asked that district attorneys in two counties of his district investigate the posting of an online link that allowed the making of vaccine appointments only to learn that it had never been authorized. Gov. Andrew Cuomo subsequently said it was the result of a hack, leak or some other fraudulent activity.
Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara and St. Lawrence County DA Gary Pasqua expressed willingness to do so, according to Griffo.
Griffo also termed the vaccine rollout as “the new Hunger Games,” saying it has caused to people to compete with the most tech-savvy having an advantage.
Cuomo’s administration, following federal recommendations, initially prioritized front-line health care workers and those age 75 and over, but was criticized for not letting other second-level eligible groups, such as first responders, teachers and certain other workers termed essential have access while doses when unused when not all of the first group had signed up, only to open up eligibility and then get fewer federally allocated doses.
Assemblyman John Salka, R-Dist. 121 of Brookfield, a respiratory therapist by training, proposed a special hotline reserved for sign-up for anyone over age 65 to make vaccination appointments and ask COVID-19 questions. He said he has written to Cuomo proposing it.
“No community has grappled with this more than the elderly, which is why I am proposing a COVID-19 hotline specifically for senior citizens,” Salka said. “A hotline number would better prioritize and ease the fear among our senior population, particularly in regard to the COVID-19 vaccine and the confusion the rollout has caused.”
Appointments may be pursued athttps://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/ or by calling 1-833-697-4829.