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COVID Update: There’s Good News and There’s…More Good News

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January 18, 2022

By Barrett Seaman—

It was painful to watch, even if one wasn’t an actual victim of the Omicron surge that hit New York State as hard as anyplace during the predicted onslaught following the Christmas/New Year’s holidays. Infection rates that had been in the low single digits last summer began to climb by leaps and bounds from Thanksgiving on, reaching 23-and-a-half percent by the second week in January—almost one in four of those tested proving positive.

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And then, like the Dragonator roller coaster at Rye Playland, the infection rate peaked and began to plunge—down a whole percentage point each day statewide until it was below 13% by Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. With any luck, it will continue to fall.

COVID hospitalizations in the seven-county Mid-Hudson region that includes Westchester

Westchester County and the rivertowns participated in the falloff, but not by as much. By Monday, active cases countywide had fallen from over 36,000 to under 29,000. Hospitalizations were down 10% as well. County Executive George Latimer gave partial credit to “the discipline of our people,” by which he meant their continual move toward vaccinations, their adherence to mask-wearing and willingness to get tested early and often.

To that end, the county is again utilizing the County Center in White Plains for both vaccinations and for testing—scheduled at different times on different days and by appointment only. To find out when each service is provided and to make an appointment, go to: https://health.westchestergov.com. Temporary vaccine and testing clinics (we don’t call them “pop-ups” anymore) are being scheduled in the more densely populated sections of the county as well. Working with the non-profit group Volunteer NewYork, the county is also actively recruiting people to train up as technicians to help meet the demand for vaccinations and testing.

The other piece of good news is that the free at-home COVID test kits the Biden administration promised were actually available for order a full day earlier than advertised. This reporter tested it out Tuesday afternoon, a day before scheduled launch, by logging onto https://www.covidtests.gov/ and succeeding in registering for the promised four rapid test kits. Of course registering and receiving (shipping time estimated at 7-12 days) are two separate issues. (Check this space sometime next week.)

Meanwhile, the ideologically inflamed information wars continue, with antivaxxers and other recalcitrants refusing to accept the strong counter-correlations between hospitalization rates and deaths on the one hand and vaccination rates on the other. At his Tuesday briefing, Latimer announced that the county is seeking new layers of data from the State Department of Health and other sources that will help refine those relationships and make a stronger case.

It is known, for example, that a significant majority of those hospitalized with COVID are unvaccinated. But there is a subset of patients that entered the hospital for other medical reasons, only to learn from routine testing that they had the virus. It would be helpful to know what proportion of the total population of COVID patients fit that category—and what percentage of them had been vaccinated. That might prove to be a useful indicator of whether reduced severity of their illness (in many instances to the point where they didn’t know they had the virus) was the result of being vaccinated.

Also, of those hospitalized that were vaccinated, what percentage had been given one dose, two doses or all three, as now prescribed? Knowing that would help measure the efficacy of various degrees of vaccine immunity.

Meanwhile, the overall government message is unchanged. As Governor Hochul said in her briefing, “As numbers continue to move in the right direction, we need to remain vigilant against the winter surge by getting the vaccine and boosters, continuing to use masks, and staying home if you feel sick, so we can keep our fellow New Yorkers safe. Let’s not undo all of the progress we’ve made.”

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