Oneida County has recorded its biggest one-day increase in the number of lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, but that was expected and may indicate the outbreak is running its course and could be nearing its peak.
The county reported 16 new positive cases as of mid-day Tuesday from the same time Monday, bringing the total so far to 121. Of those, 19 are being treated at a hospital, including two county residents in a hospital in another county, and two peole have died. In all, 1,099 people have been tested, with 752 in all coming back negative, including 99 since Monday.
County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. said experts in epidemiology have predicted the number of cases in much of the country might peak in the next couple of weeks as those who were exposed develop symptoms, seek medical care and are subject to tests for the coronavirus, which then show up in the positive-case tallies. Efforts to keep people from spreading it would then start to show their effectiveness and the number of new positive tests would then level off and start to decline.
Eventually, according epidemiologists, a community reaches a point where enough residents develop immunity from having survived the infection -- most otherwise healthy people recover after relatively minor symptoms -- that a disease-causing virus cannot find enough non-immune people to infect and an outbreak winds down.
“Looking at the best models we can, our test results possibly will double over the next seven days, and at that time depending on what those results are, the peak, if it starts to decline, then we may be hitting our stride a little bit,” Picente said during the county’s daily briefing on the outbreak.
“I don’t think it means people aren’t following the rules,” Picente added. “The numbers are going to grow. We knew that. Our goal is to not let them grow beyond our means of handling it.”
Picente noted that Oneida County so far has had proportionally fewer positive cases than many other New York communities, to which he credited general cooperation with social-distancing recommendations and closure orders for schools and non-essential businesses.
According to their respective health departments, Madison County, with less than one-third the population, has almost as many cases, 91, and Onondaga County, with about twice the population, has had more than three times the cases, 397 as of Tuesday.
But Picente said it’s no time to be complacent and reiterated the need to maintain social distancing even during a week of religious observances including Easter and Passover. Visit the elderly only one at a time and then only if truly necessary, he said.
“You don’t know who or how this disease is spreading and the rapidity at which it is taking place people who are carrying wouldn’t know and people passing it on wouldn’t know.”
Picente and Health Director Phyllis Ellis said on Monday that if a positive case is identified in a public place, that will be immediately announced.
Picente reiterated Tuesday that county authorities intend to crack down on restaurants and bars that allow congregating for their take-out service, the only kind now allowed under a state emergency order. Establishments will get a warning at first but then may be subject to a fine of up to $1,000 and may lose their health or alcohol-serving licenses.
But he also lauded those who are taking preventative steps, such as taking orders to customers waiting in their vehicles and calling or texting when ready.
“Let’s be smart here and let’s work together to save lives.”
In Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the biggest one-day increase in deaths from COVID-19, 731. It came after several days of consistent numbers of deaths, however, and Cuomo said he suspects the number may reflect the low survival rate of people who are on ventilators for an extended period.
Efforts to expand hospital capacity statewide worked, with some 90,000 beds available, up from 53,000 normally in the state, Cuomo said, but the greater issue now is manpower, as hospital workers, doctors and nurses are working at capacity and around the clock. Still, the number of new cases appears to be flat, suggesting the growth of the outbreak in the state may be slowing, he said.
Though he has extended orders closing schools and businesses considered not essential until the end of April, Cuomo said there will soon come a time when the state can consider how to lift some restrictions and re-start the economy.
“This virus is very good at what it does. It kills vulnerable people. We can't stop that,” Cuomo said. “The question is are you saving everyone you can save. There, the answer is yes, and I take some solace in that ... I don't think we lost a single person because we couldn’t provide care. The people we lost we lost despite our best effort."
Enforcement of Oneida County businesses violating gathering and social distancing orders has begun.
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