Essex County Health Department data shows the number of new COVID-19 cases reported in Essex County increased by about 36% from October through November.
While 439 new cases were recorded in October, there were 595 in November.
“By working with our case investigators and contact tracers, we can trace much of the spread back to household exposures and smaller private gatherings that happened around the start of the Christmas season, Halloween through Thanksgiving.” ECHD program coordinator Andrea Whitmarsh said.
Whitmarsh explained that it becomes harder to socially distance yourself and reduce repetitive interactions as the weather gets colder and people go inside.
“The more contagious varieties will thrive in these environments, and we’ve seen Delta do just that – we’ve had a significant increase in cases due to its portability.” She said.
“We expect a similar increase due to Omicron, so unfortunately we expect cases to remain high and possibly even increase between now and January as families celebrate the holidays.”
In October, 61% of Essex County’s residents who tested positive were not vaccinated for COVID-19, compared with 55% in November.
The number of cases in preschool through 12th grade students and teachers increased by 18% from 172 cases in October to 203 cases in November.
The ratio of staff to student cases was about 1 in 4 in October, compared with about 1 in 5 in November, Whitmarsh said.
“Many of the student cases in Essex County have occurred in teenagers who have not been vaccinated until recently: students ages 5-11.” she noticed.
Whitmarsh said ECHD expects the number of school-related cases to decrease as more children are vaccinated, but noted that full protection is not achieved until two weeks after the second dose of their primary series of vaccinations.
“This also happens at a time when the protection for some (employees and students) is waning.” She continued. “That’s why we’re working so hard to provide booster doses to all eligible, including now 16- and 17-year-olds who are at least six months away from their primary series of Pfizer vaccines.”
According to the North Country COVID Vaccine Dashboard, 41.9% of 5 to 15 year olds in Essex County have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Hospital stays, deaths
In October, 17 Essex County residents were hospitalized for COVID-19, 13 of whom were not vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The following month, 21 residents were hospitalized; 11 were not vaccinated, 10 were vaccinated and of the latter two were boosted.
In October, five Essex County residents died of COVID-19, three of whom were not vaccinated. There were four coronavirus-related deaths in November. ECHD said two were not vaccinated and none of those who received a booster.
ECHD has already reported five COVID-related deaths this month.
To be vaccinated
Whitmarsh said spikes in cases generally lead to more hospital admissions and more deaths.
“The good news: While the daily case numbers for all of New York State are the same at this point as last year, our total hospital admissions and deaths are about half what they were in the same period.” She said. “This is a direct result of the vaccination.
“In the North Country, where vaccination rates are lower than other parts of the state, we are unfortunately seeing similar hospital admissions and deaths as at the height of last year and we really have no more cases overall than ours.”
The message from ECHD is to get vaccinated now if you haven’t already and get a booster if you are eligible.
“The same people who conduct case investigations and contact tracing also work in vaccination clinics, support school-based testing, and educate the public by sharing information and resources.” said Whitmarsh. “The best way to thank a healthcare worker or public health worker is to get vaccinated!”