A portion of Oneida County was placed in a Yellow Zone, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday during a routine press briefing on the pandemic.
The zone encompasses the Utica and Rome areas, including New Hartford, Whitestown, Marcy and Westmoreland.
“There is a problem there and we have to be honest about it,” Cuomo said.
Here are the yellow zone restrictions:
- Public and private schools must test 20% of a school over two weeks. If those results are lower than the zone’s current seven-day positivity rate, testing at that school is no longer required.
- Businesses can operate.
- Restaurants can offer indoor and outdoor dining, with a four-person maximum per table.
- Worship services are limited to 50% capacity.
- Mass gatherings are limited to 25 people, either indoors or outdoors. The limit was reduced to 10 people in private residences after Cuomo imposed further restrictions statewide, effective Nov. 13.
Utica and Rome were placed into a Yellow Zone on Monday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo due to a rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. (Photo: Submitted)
The state identifies a Yellow Zone as being put in place as a broader buffer area to ensure a COVID outbreak is not spreading into the broader community, or is implemented independently as a precaution. The goal is to restrict some activity to help prevent further spread, and provide a larger defined geographic area where metrics can be monitored daily to ensure COVID is not spreading.
A Yellow Zone is designated if there has been 3% test positivity over the past 10 days and the cluster is in the top 10% for hospital admissions per capita over the past week and week-over-week growth in daily admissions.
“It’s everywhere,” Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. said of the coronavirus, reiterating how he has always been against providing locations as he discussed Cuomo’s Yellow Zone designation. “… You have to look at the whole county as being in the Yellow Zone.”
Picente said he is worried that the county may progress further into other zone designations if people do not start taking the pandemic seriously and follow the proper precautions. Picente likened the Yellow Zone designation to a warning flag.
“The numbers won’t go down by themselves,” Picente said. “They go down with the help of everyone.”
Vaccine rollout plans
During Monday’s live briefing, Picente said we have seen the light at the end of the tunnel and that is the first vaccination taking place today in New York, a vaccination among the first administered in the country.
More: ‘Everything went perfectly:’ ICU nurse receives first COVID vaccine in New York
Picente said the vaccine would likely rollout in Oneida County later this week.
Oneida County Health Director Phyllis Ellis – who is retiring later this week – said she believed Mohawk Valley Health System would receive vials of the vaccine. Officials at MHS said they had not yet received the vaccine vials as of Monday afternoon.
Last week, Cuomo announced that initial COVID-19 vaccine shipments would flow to the state this week. Cuomo said the majority of the initial shipment will go to New York City and Long Island, with the overall distribution being based on population.
The Mohawk Valley area is expected to receive 4,200 doses, Cuomo said.
Nursing home residents and staff in New York will be vaccinated under a federal program that partnered with CVS and Walgreens, Cuomo said.
After nursing homes, the New York vaccination effort will focus on high-risk health care workers on the frontline of the battle against COVID-19, such as emergency room and intensive care staffs.
The pharmaceutical companies have reported the vaccine requires two doses for each person and is 95% effective. In addition to the first shipment, New York expects to receive another 170,000 doses within 21 days to meet the two-dose requirement.
Ellis said the county’s preparedness team is currently working out how to disseminate the vaccine to others in the community during the second phase of the rollout. This will involve pods – much like the ones that have been used to distribute the flu vaccine in years past – Ellis said.
The county will also ask nursing staff for assistance, Ellis said.
Picente said it was a little premature to give out more information until the county started with the next phases. Picente said he did not want to confuse people.
The county executive urged residents to get the vaccine when it is available to them.
“Don’t be the last person to die from COVID-19,” Picente said. “Get the vaccine.”
New Oneida County numbers Monday
Oneida County reported 137 new positive coronavirus cases Monday, along with six deaths.
“That’s not our highest one day total, but it’s very close,” Picente said of the deaths, which bring the county’s total to 177. “It’s one off.”
Monday’s new cases bring the county’s total to 7,793. Officials said one positive case was removed from the previous total.
Two of the new cases involve nursing home residents, officials said.
A screenshot from Monday’s live coronavirus briefing in Oneida County. (Photo: EDWARD HARRIS / OBSERVER-DISPATCH)
The county currently has 3,788 cases, with 4,008 having been resolved.
There are 124 people hospitalized in Oneida County, with 101 at MVHS and 23 at Rome Memorial Hospital. Seventeen of the hospitalizations are nursing home residents, officials said.
There are also 14 patients hospitalized outside the county.
The county has 3,788 in mandatory isolation and 2,560 in mandatory quarantine.
Improvement in contact tracing efforts
The Oneida County Health Department has improved contact tracing, Picente said Monday, adding the new texting tool is now live.
Health officials said the mobile texting app will allow the county to expand the reach of its COVID-19 contact tracing efforts and increase the process’s efficiency.
“Community spread continues to be a major concern in Oneida County, and this new tool will boost our ability to contact trace positive COVID-19 cases,” Picente said in a statement. “Our Health Department has been working around the clock to stem the tide of these rising cases, and this will allow our contact tracers to quickly reach out to a large amount of people using less staff, which will greatly increase the efficiency of the process.”
“We know that people respond to text messages faster than phone calls or emails, and our first priority is to reach people as fast as possible and share positive test results. This technology allows us to do that,” added Picente.
The Health Department will use RumbleUp, a P2P texting platform trusted by hundreds of organizations and campaigns across the country to quickly engage any size audience via SMS or MMS. Officials said the interface will allow the Health Department to notify thousands of people simultaneously of their positive test results, and provide them with important follow-up instructions for isolation.
A text will be sent providing a link to additional information. No personal information will be shared in this text, nor will the text ask the receiver to text back personal or confidential information, officials said
Officials said the information that will be provided to positive COVID-19 patients by the Health Department through RumbleUp will include instructions for isolation, notifying close contacts, limiting contact with housemates, practicing proper hygiene and what to do if symptoms worsen.
“Texting is a popular, quick, easy way to share information,” said Ellis, in a statement. “This app will allow the Health Department to give accurate, necessary information to more people in less time. The better we are able to do this, the faster isolation and quarantining can happen.”
Information from USA Today Network New York was used in this report.
Ed Harris is the Oneida County reporter for the Observer-Dispatch. For unlimited access to his stories, please subscribe at the top of the uticaod.com homepage or activate your digital account today. Email Ed Harris at [email protected]
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