Picente: Holiday COVID-19 spike predicted

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UTICA — In a Thursday news conference, Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. noted that as fall and winter holidays are upon us, COVID-19 infection rates are rising.

The most recent spike in numbers coming on the heels of an apparent spike starting after Halloween. 

Picente predicts more elevation after Thanksgiving and Christmas when people are in close proximity celebrating. Which, is problematic as current county data shows only about 70% of county residents have at least one dose of the vaccine, which still leaves a large part of the population vulnerable to serious illness or death.

In remarks, Picente noted that of all COVID-19-related deaths in Oneida County in 2021 to date, 266 were in unvaccinated people and 28 were vaccinated. 

“People are dying that don’t need to be dying,” Picente said, again asking for people to get vaccinated.

The county executive urges everyone to get vaccinated and practice mask wearing and social distancing if congregated in an area where there are people in close proximity.

Picente added that those who are vaccinated are less likely to get the virus, spread the virus or be hospitalized if they do contract the virus.

He added that even if vaccinated, there are going to be breakthrough cases, using himself as an example. Picente, who is vaccinated, recently was infected for a second time with COVID-19. On Thursday, he reported he didn’t need to be hospitalized and that he believes the vaccine lessened the impact of the virus.

Given the rising numbers and the holiday season, Picente added that he didn’t foresee re-instituting a mask mandate, adding that he couldn’t see punishing the entire community.

Picente was joined at the briefing by Dr. Kent Hall, Chief Physician Executive for Mohawk Valley Health System, who also predicts a holiday surge.

Hall noted that in the last two weeks, COVID-19 hospitalizations have almost doubled for MVHS, and that the Delta strain of the virus — which can be just as transmissible as the chicken pox — is still the culprit.

Urging continued vigilance and precaution, Hall acknowledged the strife caused by the pandemic virus.

“I get the toll … in mental health. We’re all tired, but that doesn’t mean we let our guard down,” he said.

Numbers

On Wednesday, there were 232 new positive cases of COVID-19 and three new virus-related deaths. The positivity rate was 6.1% in Oneida County.

There were 59 Oneida County residents hospitalized as of Wednesday, with a breakdown of 42 unvaccinated and 17 vaccinated. Of that figure, 41 were at Mohawk Valley Health System, 11 were at Rome Health and seven were hospitalized out of the county.

Looking statewide to Wednesday numbers, there were 30 COVID-19-related deaths across New York and the statewide seven-day average infection positivity rate was measured at 3.58%, according to information from Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office.

In the Mohawk Valley region, the rolling seven-day average positivity rate was 7.36% on Wednesday.

The governor's office continued the call for vaccination.

"I'm proud that we've hit a new milestone of 80% of New Yorkers over 18 years old fully vaccinated," Hochul said in a statement. "Yet at the same time, the colder weather means more people will be congregating indoors potentially increasing the risk of transmission of COVID-19. So my message as we head into the holiday season is simple: If you feel at risk and want to protect your friends, family and loved ones, get vaccinated or get your booster - and make sure to wear a mask in indoor settings."

COVID-19 information links

• New York State’s COVID-19 data has been collected in one online spot at: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-data-new-york

• In Oneida County, vaccine appointments and walk-ins are available at county-operated sites. To book an appointment, visit www.ocgov.net.

• Scheduling a vaccine appointment can also be completed at: vaccines.gov.

• COVID-19 case numbers and vaccination rates are available on Oneida County’s online Dashboard at: https://bit.ly/3A85tLp

• To see COVID-19 information for Madison County, visit: https://on.ny.gov/3je8vr0

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