Sullivan’s rising COVID-19 caseload

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MONTICELLO, NY — The numbers keep going up.

As of the August 12 health and family services committee meeting, Sullivan County public health director Nancy McGraw reported, 12 people had been hospitalized with COVID-19. Not long ago, that number stood at 0.

And the patients are different. “Historically, it’s been older folks ending up in the hospital, but we suddenly have people in the hospital that are between 19 and 44,” she said.

“So this delta variant is changing the landscape of what we’ll be seeing and we do need to be more concerned about young people who are not vaccinated.”

As of August 14, 39,180 Sullivan County residents have been vaccinated, out of a population of 75,498. The Pfizer shot is approved for people age 12 and up. Recently, McGraw had noted that “there was an 80.5% increase in positive cases (from 72 to 130), and a 108% increase in the number of people in quarantine, from 110 to 229. That’s put us in the Federal Centers for Disease Control’s ‘red’ zone—an area of high COVID transmission,”

McGraw reported seeing 19 or 20 new cases every day, with one additional death over the past week. (Because of the climbing numbers, as of Monday, the county has begun requiring that employees and visitors to county buildings wear masks.)

Legislators asked about side effects and mortality from the shot itself. How about breakthrough infections?

“This vaccine is probably the most closely monitored vaccine in the history of the United States,” McGraw said.

True breakthrough infections—which are COVID-19 infections that occur after a person is fully vaccinated—do occur, but they’re uncommon. Many asymptomatic ones, and even mildly symptomatic ones, are unlikely to be reported, writes Kim Schive at MIT Medical. Even so, it’s likely a small percentage.

People do get COVID-19 after a shot, but they may have been infected before the shot, or just after it, within the two-week window before it takes full effect.

“According to the CDC, as of July 26, only 6,587 vaccinated Americans had become sick enough to be hospitalized with breakthrough infections, out of more than 164 million who have been fully vaccinated,” Schive wrote.”That is a breakthrough hospitalization rate of a little more than 0.003 percent.”

“The numbers prove conclusively that you’re far safer being vaccinated,” McGraw said in an earlier statement, “and if you do still contract COVID, your chances of getting seriously ill or even dying are greatly reduced.”

At the committee meeting, legislator Mike Brooks asked about the time lag between emergency approval of the shots and final approval.

“It’s just the research process,” McGraw said. “It does take a while.”

Legislators asked about adverse reactions.

Nobody in the county has died because of a COVID-19 vaccine, she said. People did experience side effects.The Mayo Clinic lists effects from pain and swelling at the site of the shot to fever, headache, joint and muscle pain, and nausea.

That younger people are ending up in the hospital is a concern, and so is what will happen when the delta variant sickens children. “We don’t have a pediatric ICU in this county,” McGraw said.

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