With the surge in COVID-19 cases and the holiday season about to be in full swing, Cayuga County health officials are concerned about the direction the coronavirus is heading.
This post came frequently at the monthly Cayuga County Board of Health meeting on Tuesday. In addition to worry, the other dominant theme was frustration over the lack of residents receiving vaccines that have been shown to be very effective in limiting the spread of disease and the severity of infections.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, Cayuga County’s full vaccination rate on Sunday was 54.4%, compared to 68.1% for New York state. The percentage of residents receiving at least one dose in Cayuga County, at 58.2%, is also significantly lower than the statewide rate of 77.1%.
The shortfall is not due to lack of access to vaccines in Cayuga County, doctors and public health officials at Tuesday’s meeting said. It is now the resistance of the remaining vaccine-eligible population.
“Over time, the conversations got more and more difficult,” said Nancy Purdy, director of community health services for the county. “Even those who are sick and haven’t been vaccinated, it’s just a very difficult conversation because they just don’t necessarily have confidence.”
Health board member Ralph Battista said there needs to be a more concerted effort by community leaders to promote vaccine safety and efficacy.
“It looks like the field is left open for people who want to either spread disinformation or spread doubt, and it looks like we are just conceding that,” he said. “We don’t have the effort that I think we need to counter this.”
Dr. Cassandra Archer, one of the medical council members, warned of marketing efforts by political leaders.
“What will convince them will be a doctor, a friend or a family member,” she said.
She suggested starting a vaccine ambassador program, similar to some successful campaigns used to tackle drug addiction issues, in which ordinary people who have been vaccinated would be willing to explain why they are doing so.
“It might be more effective than having more politics in it,” she said.
Kathleen Cuddy, county public health director, said board members’ comments were helpful. She noted that the ministry has marketing funds to help with immunization efforts.
“Frankly, we haven’t coordinated to do it yet,” she said. “Maybe this will give us ideas and strategies that will help us to move forward further.”
The board also received an update on the county health department’s vaccination efforts targeting children aged 5 to 11, who have just become eligible for pediatric doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The department has partnered with several school districts in the region to organize vaccination clinics in schools over the past two weeks. They will return to these schools in December to administer the second doses, but will also offer the first doses to families who may have decided to have their child immunized at that time.
“I would say the first round was a good way to get the word out,” Purdy said of the school clinics, which she said had an average of about 35 students at each local elementary school. “But we still have a lot of other kids to do.”
Deanna Hoey, one of the health department’s public health educators, told the board there have been 839 cases of COVID-19 involving children under the age of 18 since August, or about 25 % of all cases. She said getting more children vaccinated will be crucial in reducing that number, which is also helpful for county contact tracing efforts, as children’s cases often take longer as children are more active.
Hoey also noted that 65% of all cases since August have been unvaccinated residents. The total number of cases for November, Monday, stood at 662, and with the county averaging more than 33 new cases per day, that could represent a monthly increase in cases of 16% from October at the end of this month. .
Aileen McNabb-Coleman, Speaker of the County Legislature, attended the meeting and also spoke about the trends.
“It’s troubling to be at this point, with the vaccine (available), and our county is not using it,” she said.
While there has been no discussion that Cayuga County is taking action to reinstate COVID-19 restrictions, Cuddy and McNabb-Coleman noted that state officials and county leaders in The state will monitor Erie County, which just instituted a mask mandate for indoor public spaces amid a major spike in cases.
McNabb-Coleman said she had been on conference calls with the county chief with Gov. Kathy Hochul in recent weeks, and the governor was becoming very concerned about the rising case rate.
“Does the message ‘Do something, you locals, or I will’? ”Asked Elane Daly, board member, county legislator and retired director of health and social services.
“That’s the impression I got in the conversations we had,” McNabb-Coleman said.
• In its situation update released on Tuesday, the county health department said it had placed 53 additional residents in isolation with newly confirmed COVID-19 cases on Monday. Of these new cases, 27 are not vaccinated. There are now 272 active cases, up from 212 a week ago.
Residents admitted to an Auburn or Syracuse hospital with COVID-19 are 13 (seven unvaccinated), the same total as a week ago.
• The ministry has scheduled more community vaccination clinics for next week.
From noon to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, November 30, a clinic will provide the first dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccines as well as Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters.
From 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the same day, a clinic will provide first dose Pfizer injections for the 5 to 11 age group.
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, December 1, a clinic will have a first or second dose of Pfizer for people 12 years of age and older and Pfizer boosters for people 18 years and older.
From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, December 3, a clinic will be offering Moderna boosters and Pfizer boosters to people 18 and over.
All clinics are held at the Fingerlakes Mall, 1579 Clark St. Road, Aurelius. The clinics will be held at the former location of Jo-Ann Fabric. To enter the clinic, use the exterior doors to the left of the Bass Pro stores.
Registration is mandatory for these clinics. Appointments can be made at cayugacounty.us/health. The Cayuga Community Health Network helps schedule appointments. To receive assistance with the registration process, call (315) 252-4212. Some town and village offices also help residents make appointments.
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