CATSKILL — Greene County shattered its previous records for single-day COVID-19 positive cases, identifying 188 new cases Wednesday alone.
Since Greene County Public Health began reporting single-day cases in December 2020, the previous single-day record was 97 cases identified on Dec. 17, 2021, a record that nearly doubled in 12 days.
Fueled by the spread of the omicron variant, the county has seen cases soar this month, with the total number of positive cases now at 6,322 since the pandemic began in March 2020.
“Someone said it best yesterday in that everyone is going to get this,” Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said of the omicron variant. “It’s just a matter of time. As I’ve said before, if you want light symptoms, then get vaccinated. If you think you’re going to be able to withstand the big shot, then fine, stay unvaccinated. But everybody is going to get this.”
According to Greene County Public Health, there are currently 573 active positive COVID cases, with the department noting that due to limited testing capabilities, the number of positive cases identified does not reflect the full number of COVID cases in the county.
Groden said that at the county-run testing clinics Greene has been running on Mondays and Wednesdays at 370 Mansion St. in Coxsackie, Public Health has the capacity to process 16 COVID tests per hour.
On Tuesday, the county also saw its 93rd death from COVID-related illnesses.
The victim was an unidentified woman in her 80s who was not vaccinated at the time of her death, according to Groden. The woman, who died in the hospital, may have had comorbidities at the time of her death.
On Tuesday, the rate of COVID tests in the county that came back positive was 30.7%, with that rate falling to 9.5% for the results reported by the county Wednesday. The seven-day rolling average of positive cases in the county is 11.9%.
Throughout the first two weeks of December, the county regularly saw single-digit numbers for the percentage of tests that recorded positive cases. On Dec. 17, only 4.7% of tests in the county came back positive, a figure that jumped to 30.7% in 11 days.
The county has 20 residents hospitalized due to COVID-related illnesses, with 689 residents in quarantine.
On Dec. 31, 2020, the county recorded 50 positive COVID cases in the prior 24 hours, with 23 residents hospitalized at that time. While cases surged to 188 on Wednesday, there were three fewer hospitalizations than the previous year at this time and six less than were announced on Tuesday.
“A one-day change is not a trend yet, but hospitalizations are lower than they were last year at this time when the original virus came out,” Groden said. “Now between delta and omicron, as the normal flu goes every year, with every mutation you get, the less severity you get. So the science is following through with that. I’m convinced that eventually everyone is going to get this.”
Nearly two years into the pandemic, Groden said he was surprised that COVID still continues to linger.
“Every year there’s a flu, and that’s just nature,” he said. “There’s always a new flu and a new variant. So I would say that this is a phenomenon that I hope doesn’t repeat itself. Somebody asked me the other day if this is going to happen every year and I didn’t know how to respond. Nobody wants that, obviously. I’m not going to call it a new normal yet, that’s for sure.”
Several days removed from families gathering for the Christmas holiday and New Year’s Eve celebrations imminent, Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said he expects to see COVID-positive numbers climb in the coming days.
“We expect the numbers to go up and we expected it last year and it happened,” he said. “I think the biggest difference between last year and this year is that the new variant is extremely communicable, so people will catch it much easier than what they’re used to. We also have the vaccine out now, as opposed to last year. So between the new variant, which seems to have less severe symptoms, and the vaccine, which the majority of our residents have received, there’s a little less of an impact on our hospitalizations than what you might expect with these very high numbers of positive cases.”
The county surpassed 5,000 cases on Nov. 30 and added another 1,000 in the next four weeks.
Groden said the county won’t adopt the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for its workers that recommend a five-day isolation and quarantine period for individuals who test positive instead of the original 10-day period.
“No,” Groden said. “I talked about it with my HR director the other day and right now we’re not doing that. There are a couple of silos with our dispatch and corrections staff that I could not afford to lose. Those are not operations that I can shut down. But with our normal business we’re not going to take that risk of moving from 10 to five days.”
Groden said the county has no plans to declare a state of emergency.
“The whole concept of disrupting business cycles again is not something that we can tolerate,” he said. “We can’t do that. We have to keep businesses open and schools open. Kids need to be in school. So the best thing people can do is to get vaccinated and you won’t have a harsh reaction to it. Because you will get the virus.”