On Thursday, March 3, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan discussed the County’s new approach to COVID-19, as the situation shifts from a “pandemic” to an “endemic.” Citing public health progress, such as the 97% drop in active cases in Ulster County since the height of the Omicron surge and the statewide lifting of both the indoor business mask-or-vaccine requirement on February 10th and the mask mandate for schools on March 2nd, Ryan said the “County was moving towards a proactive monitoring mode on COVID-19, which could now be termed endemic.” Pandemics are a widespread, rapid spread of disease, with exponentially rising cases over a large area. Endemic viruses, meanwhile, are constantly present and have a fairly predictable spread. That predictability allows health care systems and doctors to prepare and adapt, reducing public health risks and loss of life.
“COVID may still be a part of our lives, but we cannot let it dominate our lives. Through mask-wearing, testing and getting vaccinated, COVID-19 cases in Ulster County have declined 97% since the Omicron surge and the CDC has placed Ulster County in the ‘Low’ COVID-19 Community Level,” Ryan said. “Ulster County will continue to offer robust testing, we will continue to encourage and provide access to vaccines and boosters, and we will vigorously monitor the public health situation as it changes; but through our diligence, we have entered a new phase of COVID-19.”
“The vaccine is really at the foundation of why we are now in an area of low transmission and our numbers have gone down progressively,” Ulster County Health Commissioner Dr. Carol Smith said. “In the background, in an endemic, the Health Department will continue to do the necessary surveillance: to watch the positive cases as they come through from laboratories, to monitor for any shifts and changes in the numbers or in terms of genomic testing and whether the DNA of the virus changing – is there a new variant? So we’ll be doing our job in the background, and we may reach out again to ask you to get another booster.”
On February 10, Ryan announced that he would not be extending the Public Health Emergency order that was originally issued in late November 2021 due to a rapid rise in positivity rates brought on by the emergence of the Omicron variant, as the active case count had drastically dropped.
The newly expanded Ulster County COVID-19 data dashboard is available online at https://covid19.ulstercountyny.gov/dashboard/. Residents who need help with access can call the Ulster County Recovery Service Center at 845-443-8888.