Second wave: Ulster sees sharp spike in new Covid-19 cases

Ulster County has seen its active cases of Covid-19 double in the last three weeks, with a particularly steep increase in the percentage of positive test results in the last 48 hours, reported County Executive Pat Ryan today.

“It’s very clear now we are well into a second wave of Covid,” said Ryan.

After hovering around 100-150 active cases from late June into early October, the county now has 489 cases.


Active cases in Ulster County

Another measure, the ratio of positive to negative tests, has also increased precipitously. In the last 48 hours, 2165 have been tested, yielding 107 new positive cases – a 4.9 percent new infection rate. (1 percent or lower is the goal.) Over the last 24 hours, the numbers are even worse: 74 new cases out of 1001 tested, or 7.4 percent, though Ryan said that result was skewed somewhat by around 50 tests taken over the previous few days being reported at the same time.

The rate of positive tests is among the most concerning indicators

Another metric is the average number of new cases over a seven-day period. That now stands at 33. The last time the county had a number that high was April 4, and the highest it reached was 48.

“If we don’t take dramatic, comprehensive precautions, it’s very possible the second wave could be worse than the first,” said Ryan, who pointed out that there were times in the spring when the county nearly ran out of ventilators and hospital capacity, and had to set up a temporary field hospital at Kingston High School and make plans for still more capacity elsewhere. Those didn’t end up being necessary, but if the second-wave is worse, similar measures would be needed, said Ryan.

Most new cases are coming from private indoor gatherings, bars and restaurants, and congregate facilities (such as nursing homes). Ryan gave an example of how one indoor Halloween party involving three households and about 20 people led to numerous cases at a local college and several K-12 schools. He urged residents not to hold multi-household gatherings during the upcoming holidays.

“Thanksgiving is coming at the worst possible time,” said Ryan. “If we don’t take it seriously and readjust our plans, it’s going to be a very, very ugly December when we see those results come in.”

To avoid the need for another — or deeper — lockdown, the county executive urged businesses to turn back the clock with their protocols and vigilance to the phased in reopening, when mask-wearing, limited capacity, and other measures were more strictly adhered to.  Ryan said the county would be doing just that by curtailing public access to county buildings (the DMV will still be open, but appointment-only) and limiting the in-person workforce to essential staff plus 25 percent additional support staff until January 1.