Rise in COVID cases prompts Ulster County to declare state of emergency

·3 min read

KINGSTON – The number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Ulster County recently reached their highest levels since the spring, and county officials responded Sunday by declaring a state of emergency.

“With COVID cases and hospitalizations surging, and the emergence of a new and potentially more dangerous variant, we must step up our efforts to ensure the health and safety of all of our residents,” County Executive Pat Ryan said in a press release.

The state of emergency, which will be in effect for at least 30 days, allows Ulster County to bolster public health and medical staff resources across the county and more quickly get a hold of COVID-19 testing materials for schools, businesses and families. If necessary, the order also allows the county to ramp up testing, contact tracing, and vaccination efforts.

Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan talks about the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine available for local residents at the Kate Walton Field House in the City of Kingston, NY on Wednesday, January 13, 2021.
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan talks about the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine available for local residents at the Kate Walton Field House in the City of Kingston, NY on Wednesday, January 13, 2021.

State data shows that Ulster County has seen an increase in positive cases per 100,000 people over the last three weeks.

“Informed by real-time data and the advice of our team of public health experts, this emergency order is an important step to allow the county to respond rapidly and effectively in order to combat the virus,” Ryan said in the press release. “We must do everything we can, individually and collectively, to prevent another difficult and deadly winter. I encourage all residents to get vaccinated, get your booster, and continue to socially distance and wear masks when indoors around others.”

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Only two days earlier, Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency across New York as COVID-19 cases surge and the threat of a new omicron variant recently found in South Africa grows.

"We've taken extraordinary action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and combat this pandemic. However, we continue to see warning signs of spikes this upcoming winter, and while the new omicron variant has yet to be detected in New York state, it's coming," Hochul said in a statement.

There are not currently any new widespread COVID safety protocols such as requiring masks inside public spaces; however, New York does require masks inside health care facilities and schools, prisons and transit systems.

In separate statements, both Hochul and Ryan urged more New Yorkers to get vaccinated.

“With the emergence of the omicron variant, it’s even more urgent to get vaccinated and get your booster,” Ryan said in a statement. “Vaccines remain our most effective tool to stop the virus and save lives.”

Ulster County will continue to hold regular vaccination clinics for residents who need to receive their first dose, second dose, or booster dose, according to Ryan's press release. Appointments are recommended for the county’s vaccination clinics, but clinics will accommodate walk-ins when capacity allows. Interested county residents can sign up for an appointment at VaccinateUlster.com.

In addition, Ryan emphasized the continued need for residents to volunteer to staff and support the county’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts. The Ulster County Department of Health is still accepting volunteers, particularly medical volunteers to be vaccinators, and screeners. Those interested in volunteering can sign up at https://covid19.ulstercountyny.gov/vaccine-volunteer/.

This article originally appeared on Times Herald-Record: Ulster County state of emergency issued amid rising COVID cases

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