CATSKILL — For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Greene County had zeroes across the board Wednesday — no active COVID cases, no positive test results, no quarantines and no deaths.
“This is the day that Greene County Public Health — and I’m sure the rest of the county — has been waiting for,” according to a statement from the health agency.
The pandemic began in mid-March of 2020 and for the past 15 months led to shutdowns and health-and-safety protocols including social distancing and face masks.
“For public health, it is a great accomplishment,” Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said of the report. “Operationally, they have gone 450 days or so having to report every day to the state, doing testing and quarantines and daily calls.”
Since the beginning of the virus outbreak, the county has seen 3,310 positive cases and 75 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the department. Of the COVID-19 tests taken since last March, 3.8% turned out positive.
Wednesday’s report of zero active cases, positive tests, deaths and quarantines is a first for Greene County.
Since the pandemic began, Public Health has worked every day to meet state reporting requirements and the needs of county residents with the virus, Linger said.
“Operationally, it’s a little bit of a breather for them,” he said. “They don’t have the option of getting days off like everybody else — they have to report to the state every day and there are people on quarantine, they make daily phone calls. It’s a lot of work and a lot of time, through the holidays and everything.”
The COVID-19 vaccines and the warmer weather that brings people outside more — where the virus is less likely to spread, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — contributed to the decline in virus numbers, Linger said.
But whether the numbers remain low — or at zero — remains to be seen.
“It’s hard to predict and depends a lot on people getting the vaccine,” Linger said.
As of Thursday, of the 47,491 people living in Greene County, 20,911 have completed the vaccine series and 24,073 have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the New York State COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require a two-dose regimen and the Johnson & Johnson inoculation needs one shot.
Greene County has just passed the halfway mark, with 50.7% of all residents receiving at least one inoculation dose and 58.4% of adults with at least one dose.
“I would hope that by the time school starts, herd immunity takes over,” Linger said. “Like the flu, there will be cases, but it will be spread out. It’s a virus so I don’t know if it will run its course and be done, or if there will be variants that make another round, like in other countries. That’s why we need people to get the vaccine — to keep the variants under control and try to get to herd immunity.”
Between 75% and 85% of the population needs to be inoculated to reach herd immunity, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has said.
Consistently low infection rates would help the county return to a sense of normalcy, Linger said.
“We are glad to see these numbers where they are and people being able to get out and gather again and have events. It has taken a toll on people, not being social,” Linger said. “We are a social people.”