Of the 129 Oneida County residents who have been confirmed though a lab test to have become sick from the COVID-19 cornavirus, as many are betwen the ages of 18 to 44 as as in any age group, prompting an admonition that age is not protection against the disease.
On Wednesday, the county began giving a breakdown of those who test positive for the disease by broad age groups. As of late in the day, about 33 percent were in that age group, the same as in the 45-64 age group. The two age groups are the largest age cohorts of county residents.
About 13 percent of lab-confirmed cases so far in the county are in people 75 or older, and 8.5 percent in people age 65-74. Those up to age 17 represent about 2 percent, and an age was not available for about 6 percent.
County officials said the breakdown is an example of why it's dangerous for any age group to assume they are less susceptible to the COVID-19 coronavirus than older people. While people 65 and older are considered more at risk for life-threatening complications, it can affect any age, they said.
"That group and that population of people don't feel that they are susceptible to these kinds of things," said Oneida County Health Director Phyllis Ellis, a former trauma nurse. "‘It happens to older people, and it happens to them not us.’ When we started this a month ago that age group of people weren’t feeling the need to self-isolate, to distance themselves."
The county reported eight new cases Wednesday since mid-day Tuesday, with 21 county residents hospitalized with the condition, including three in out-of-county hospitals. No deaths have been linked to the disease since the second was reported late last week.
About 56 percent of cases are among males.
While the county is sticking to its policy of not disclosing where those with the disease or who have shown symptoms but not yet tested positive for it live, County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. said there do not appear to be any clusters and cases are all across the county.
"It's everywhere, north to south, east to west. Nobody is spared from this."
Picente said earlier Wednesday he joined a conference call of a few thousand elected officials across the country with President Donald Trump, who along with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged them to continue the message that measures so far seem to be working and should be maintained.
Earlier, Cuomo said in his daily briefing in Albany that some 779 deaths linked to the coronavirus were reported since the previous day statewide even as the number of new cases appears to have leveled off. The rise in deaths, Cuomo said, may reflect people who were admitted within the past two weeks whose conditioned worsened. But social distancing appears to be working in slowing the growth in the outbreak, often referred to as an upward-sloping graphic curve.
"The curve is flattening because of social distancing. It must be kept up. Now is not the time to be complacent. Those are the exact words I heard form the president about an hour ago on the call," Picente said.
It is crucial people refrain from the traditional gatherings of non-household members for Passover and Easter, Picente said. Ellis explained that outdoor gatherings, even when people maintain a distance of the generally recommended six-foot minimum, can spread the virus. She noted people can carry the coronavirus without yet showing symptoms.
"Even outdoors invites others to interact," Ellis said. "Stay within your personal family in your household and don't invite others."
While there is no way to precisely know when the number of new cases and other measures of the outbreak might peak, Picente said he believes Oneida County's high point is not far behind that of New York City, which is widely viewed as coming this week or next. He noted the rise in total cases and hospitalizations has been steady for several days. However, he stressed, whenever it comes, the peak is no the time to stop social distancing.
"You won’t know a peak until it starts declining at the same rate that is rising itself. The peak doesn't mean complete success," Picente said. "That’s something that people have to be cognizant of as well. We’re still far from out of the woods.
Picente also addressed the issue of whether golf courses can open, a frequently asked question to the county. He said the revised list of essential businesses from state government does not include golf courses.
Also Wednesday, Picente briefed county legislators on steps and purchases made so far to respond to the outbreak.
Legislators met by teleconference and approved by acclimation the creation of a special budgetary fund for COVID-19-related costs and a transfer of about $1 million, along with more than a dozen largely routine resolutions.
So far, the county has made about $1.3 million in coronavirus-related purchases, including personal protective equipment for first responders, hospitals, county employees and other frontline agencies, including masks, gloves, gowns, coveralls, face shields and safety glasses.
Hiring is frozen except for essential jobs in public safety and health. More than 90 percent of employees are working, however, as the county work force includes sheriff's patrol, law enforcement and corrections divisions, as well as public works, social services and other essential operations, Picente said.
While the county will lose substantial sales-tax and room-tax revenue from the reduction in business activity, hotel room rentals and its share of revenue from Oneida Indian Nation casinos, it is also reducing spending and has a fund balance, Picente said. The state Association of Counties estimates sales-tax revenue losses generally will range from 4 percent to 12 percent. The lower figure would cost the county about $4 million. Its annual budget comprises about $439 million.
The county could issue revenue-anticipation bonds to raise cash but that does not appear needed yet but that is an option if the closures continue, Picente added.
"we have enough to mage what we have in front of it. ... by august will have some hard decisions to make."