Hospitals throughout Northern New York are being pushed to their limits with people sick from COVID-19, prompting local governments to take action.
Six of the seven counties in the north country — Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence — have declared states of emergency. Hamilton County officials said they intended to do so.
Gov. Kathy Hochul signed an executive order last month to halt elective surgeries at hospitals with a capacity of no more than 10%. As of Monday, 32 hospitals statewide made this list. The order went into effect Thursday.
They include Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone (Franklin County), Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh (Clinton County) and Elizabethtown Community Hospital in Elizabethtown (Essex County), all part of the University of Vermont Health Network; Canton-Potsdam Hospital in Potsdam (St. Lawrence County), part of the St. Lawrence Health System; and Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center in Ogdensburg (St. Lawrence County), part of the North Star Health Alliance.
Many hospitals are close to being filled because novel coronavirus infection rates have soared recently. According to a story published Wednesday by the Watertown Daily Times, Jefferson County has seen alarming statistics. County authorities held a news conference this week to discuss the reasons they declared a state of emergency.
“Public health officials at Wednesday’s [news] conference said the entire north country region is seeing an unprecedented spread of COVID-19 in the community,” the article reported. “Of all cases ever recorded in Jefferson County, 43% came in over the last three months, since Sept. 1. Cases increased by more than 300% between August and September, then rose by 30% from September to October and again by 31% between October and November. Officials said there’s nothing indicating the rate has slowed, and they expect about a 30% increase in positive cases between November and December.”
The north country has the fourth-highest positivity rate (8.3%) over a seven-day period as of Tuesday of all New York regions, according to data from the state. It follows the Western New York (10.7%), Finger Lakes (9.6%) and Mohawk Valley (8.4%) regions; the statewide rate is 4.8%.
This information also shows that the north country had the second-highest number of cases per 100,000 residents (80.4), second only to the Mohawk Valley region (102.4); the statewide number is 50.3. The north country averaged 75.4 cases per day, following the Mohawk Valley (85.2), Western New York (82.5), Southern Tier (80.9) and Finger Lakes (76.9) regions; the statewide number is 49.0.
In addition, other state data demonstrate that the north country has one of the lowest vaccination rates in New York (information from the state does not include figures from Fort Drum or the federal Bureau of Prisons). The rate of residents ages 18 and older in the north country who have received at least one dose of the vaccine is 72.6%. Only the Mohawk Valley (70.3%) and Southern Tier (70.6%) regions are lower; the statewide number is 86.5%.
For adults who are fully vaccinated, the north country has the second-lowest rate at 65.9%, topped only by the Mohawk Valley region at 65.5%; the statewide number is 78.8%. Lewis County has the lowest number on this north country list (61.9%) followed by Franklin County (65.7%), St. Lawrence County (71%), Jefferson County (75.2%), Essex County (76.1%), Clinton County (76.3%) and Hamilton County (85.3%).
These are alarming statistics, and it’s become a grave situation. The point of the lockdown measures last year was to get a handle on the spread of the virus and reduce the rate of infection. Most parts of New York succeeded in this, but some regions have taken a downward turn.
This is tragic because people are becoming seriously ill and dying. Everyone eligible should get vaccinated or receive a booster and adhere to safety protocols. For your sake and the well-being of those around you, please follow these measures so we can once again gain control of this pandemic.