It’s beginning to look as though Ulster County passed its peak of new Covid-19 infections about ten days ago. On January 7, 471 new cases were reported in the county. Since then, the numbers have come down – not every day, but most days. On January 16, according to state data, 345 new positives were reported in Ulster County. The next day, January 17, the total dropped precipitously to 140.
Though that number might well be a statistical fluke – we’ll find out tomorrow or the day after – there’s reason to believe that Covid-19 is now on the decline in New York State. Both the mid-Hudson regional seven-day positivity percentage and the seven-day average number of cases per 100,000 of population have been declining. The positivity percentage has been in slow but steady decline since its peak on January 4. The number of cases adjusted for population hit its peak on January 9, and has fallen every day from the previous day since then.
This pattern of a steady drop once the peak has been reached follows that reported in many countries. New York State’s statewide totals so far support this conclusion. The next week should either confirm the trend or reject it. As Lenny Kravitz sang well before Covid in 1991, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
Hospitals are required to report on a daily basis both the number of “staffed acute-care beds” they have available, and how many of those beds are occupied by patients, whether diagnosed with Covid or not.
One of the statistical puzzles of the pandemic is why downstate hospitals have been able to handle its increase in Covid patients without the capacity of its health system being found wanting while upstate hospitals have not.
Ulster County COVID-19 Active Cases
Bill Hammond of the Empire Center argues that upstate hospitals lost a greater percentage of their healthcare workers during the latest wave of the pandemic than did downstate hospitals. That’s true. But it’s also true that the proportion of workers in healthcare is greater in the Big Apple than upstate. Regions with greater population and more healthcare alternatives simply have greater flexibility in handling capacity problems.
The numbers are definitely trending downward in New York City, where there have been a lot of cases but few capacity problems. Long Island and the Hudson Valley have also done all right. In other regions of the state, there have been more problems, To cope, the state has not allowed elective surgeries in regions where bed occupancy is over 90 percent.
“Upstate is still not out of the woods yet,” reported governor Kathy Hochul on January 14, “Downstate numbers are trending down, and see New York City, Long Island at the top. There that’s the trend you want to see. We’re still having issues in Central New York, Mohawk Valley, Western New York’s flattening out a little bit there. So we’re watching those very closely. And that is why we took quick action when we realized that the high positivity rates, typically in areas that don’t have as high of vaccination rate. That is a bad combination. High infections, lower-than-should-be vaccinations. That’s the combination we look at, then we look at hospital capacity, which you’ve heard me talk about nonstop through this whole process.”
It’s not the end of this terrible time. The suffering is continuing. Lives have been irretrievably frayed. The healthcare system remains badly strained. Some people with long Covid may never recover or may die.
But the worst may now be over. Finally.