UTICA — Oneida County reported the highest one-day number of new cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic arrived in March, nearly double the previous high, prompting new warnings to residents to avoid gatherings at the biggest travel-and-gather holiday to happen during the crisis yet.
The county reported 213 new cases from the results of positive tests, up from the previous peak Nov. 13 and 18 of 108, and 1,151 known active cases, the most ever. The spring peak of new cases on a single day was 63 on May 3, and of active cases 401 on June 1.
“This is the peak. There’s a new peak, and we need to get that back down,” Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. said.
The main admonition from Picente and county Health Director Phyllis Ellis: If there’s even a remote chance you have the virus, act as if you have it and can spread it. With the number of new cases rising quickly, the state and county test-reporting and contact tracing system is lagging behind, and it’s taking on average seven days to get test results. With the 14-day period in which the disease can be spread from the time a person is first exposed, that means there’s a long period in which a person who does not appear sick or who is suffering from seemingly routine cold-like symptoms could actually be spreading the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Those who have been exposed to COVID-19, including all household members of a positive case, need to quarantine for 14 days from the last date of exposure, the county officials said. Individuals who have been exposed to a positive case and have tested negative must quarantine for the full 14 days.
“People run out and get a test and say I’m negative and I’m ok so I can go about my business, that is truly not true. If you’ve been exposed to someone, you have a 14-day window where you can spread that virus,” Ellis said.
The Health Department urged anyone not feeling well to contact a health care provider and consider getting tested for COVID, noting some tests are free. Options are outlined at the county website at https://ocgov.net/health/coronavirus.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 50 county residents were hospitalized with COVID-19, including seven at Rome Memorial Hospital, 35 in the Mohawk Valley Health System hospitals in Utica and New Hartford, and eight in some other county. Of the total, 15 were nursing home residents.
While availability rates of hospital beds and intensive care unit beds have decreased in the past three weeks, Picente and Ellis said they are not alarmed that capacity is being stretched. Hospitals have surge plans in place using other space within their buildings and to transfer patients if needed.
New York state has not announced any micro-cluster areas with localized restrictions on gatherings and activity, but Picente again said the county is near the main trigger of 3% test-positivity rate over seven consecutive days. It’s been at about 2.8% since late last week, he added. Cluster designations, however, can be made for smaller geographies, such as ZIP codes. He told county legislators last week that yellow zones, the least severe category, could be announced soon in Rome, Utica and Camden, but that is yet to happen.
“Will know more in the next couple days. We’re not there is the good news but we could easily get there,``Picente said.
The county will also stop announcing incidents of possible public exposure when a person with a positive test within the 14-day infectious period has been in a publicly accessible location. Exposures will be announced if a major community-spread event is detected. Many other counties in New York have stopped, and the usefulness of the warnings has been diminished, Ellis said.
“Basically they’re everywhere in all of our zip codes throughout the county.”
Cases are congregating from households and families living together, as opposed to the spring, when many cases were concentrated in facilities or large workplaces, Ellis explained.
Picente urged mask wearing when in public or around non-household members, and he said it’s crucial residents avoid gathering for Thanksgiving outside households that live together. It’s hard to avoid, he acknowledged, but said it’s what’s needed to ensure people can keep gathering for holidays yet to come.
“Pass the turkey and not covid.”