Ulster Covid infections keep falling, but county is concerned about vaccine hesitancy

Town of Rochester Supervisor Mike Baden and Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan at a vaccine clinic at the Harold Lipton Community Center in Accord.

Ulster County continued to see a drop in the number of COVID-19 infections as the number of shots in arms ticked up last week. The number of active cases as of Monday fell to 391, less than a quarter of where they were a month before, while 53.3 percent of the population (95,133) now have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

However, the rate of residents seeking vaccinations has begun to fall, necessitating the county to reduce its requested vaccine allotment for the first time. This change prompted County Executive Pat Ryan to call on residents to get vaccinated and urge friends and family to do the same.

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“What we need is every resident in the county to do their part, frankly to do their duty, to make sure that they get this vaccine, not just to protect themselves and their family, but to protect everyone around them,” Ryan said. “That is our only path out of the challenges of the last year-plus, the vaccination path. All the other precautions like wearing masks are just buying us time. The faster we can get everyone vaccinated, the faster we can move on, get businesses open, get schools fully open, and accelerate our economy and community.”

Ulster County received 2,170 vaccine doses last week, down from a little over 3000 last week. Many were administered in a series of town hall-based walk-in clinics the county executive said were reportedly a comfort for some area residents who had a difficult time securing appointments online, and for others who preferred receiving their shots in a familiar setting.

Active cases continue to fall.

“We have sufficient, if not more than sufficient supply,” Ryan said. “Supply is not our challenge, it’s really making sure that we get everybody motivated to be vaccinated and we make it as easy as possible to remove any of the logistical hurdles or other technical challenges, or transportation challenges.”

The town hall clinics were held in New Paltz, Rosendale, Rochester and Gardiner last week, and the Hudson Valley Mall vaccination site administered doses to those who had appointments and others who simply walked in.

Among the walk-in clinics planned over the next week are Esopus Town Hall (Tuesday, May 4), the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center in Kingston (Wednesday, May 5) and Shawangunk Town Hall (Monday, May 10). Each is open from 1-6 p.m. on their specific days, and all will be administering the Moderna vaccine. 

“Thank you to everyone continuing to do your part to get the Covid infection rates down and the spread slowed and ultimately stopped here,” Ryan said. “We think we’re really to start to see the medium and long-term impact as well of our vaccination numbers going up and up.”

Since the start of the pandemic, Ulster County has reported 14,820 cases of COVID-19, with 362,561 tests administered. A total of 14,172 have recovered, while 257 have died.

“Hospitalizations are one of the metrics that is still concerning and has stayed steady at far too high a number,” said Ryan, adding that the county is equipped to handle the near-term needs. Seventeen of 84 hospital beds across the county are in use, including three of nine ICU beds. Three of 37 available ventilators are also being used.

“Our hope is that as we start to get the other numbers down, hospitalizations will eventually follow,” Ryan said. “The very good news is that our active case numbers continue to rapidly drop.”

The county executive stressed that even with the CDC relaxing its guidelines for people who’ve been fully vaccinated, that didn’t mean the pandemic was over.

“Until we get to herd immunity, unfortunately, we all have to continue to wear masks, to maintain distance, to wash hands, to avoid social gatherings, particularly among those who have not been vaccinated,” Ryan said.

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