OSWEGO — COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Oswego County for the first time in over a month, mirroring the national and global trend of rising cases in recent weeks blamed largely on the fast-spreading Delta variant and slowing vaccinations.
Active cases of lab-confirmed COVID-19 in Oswego County jumped to 19 this week, a more than six-fold increase from two weeks ago and the highest number of active cases since June 21, according to county Health Department data. Throughout the U.S., the COVID-19 curve is rising again after months of decline, with the number of new daily cases this week rising to the highest point in nearly three months.
“The data shows that the seven-day average of testing volume, percentage of those testing positive and the new case counts are all rising,” said Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang, adding county health officials are encouraging all eligible residents to get vaccinated. “Our numbers increased but this is, at a national level, the same. The whole nation is in an increasing trend.”
The Oswego County numbers are far from the highs of 1,300 active cases but are similar to mid-2020 levels that preceded the precipitous rise in cases seen in November and December leading up to the mid-January peak. Nationally, confirmed COVID-19 infections reached 55,000 on Monday, well below the peak of more than 300,000 but more than four-times the daily numbers from a month ago and the highest since April.
Over the past two weeks, COVID-19 cases have been on the rise in each state with the exception of Maine and South Dakota.
Locally, cases are spread throughout the county, Huang said, adding areas of higher population still tend to have the highest number of cases. Most of the increase in cases nationally is likely due to the Delta variant, Huang said, noting the high number of unvaccinated individuals is also a contributing factor.
Federal, state and local health officials are continuing to urge individuals to get vaccinated, but vaccine rates have slowed significantly in recent weeks. Health officials are running up against resistance at the same time the highly contagious coronavirus mutation first detected in India now makes up more than 80 percent of sequenced samples, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
Vaccination remains the most effective way to stem the spread of the virus, Huang said, noting the county Health Department continues to conduct case investigations, identify close contacts and place individuals in isolation. Huang reiterated a statement made several months ago, noting humans are in a race against the virus and vaccination is the best tool available.
“Every time the virus jumps from one person to another person it increases the chances of a new variant,” Huang said. “We need to quickly vaccinate people, reduce infections and we can reduce variants.”
Huang noted more than 2,500 individuals in Oswego County who received one-dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines never returned for the second-dose, and urged those individuals to schedule a second shot.
“If they want to get fully protected, a second shot is a must,” he said.
Oswego County Legislature Chairman James Weatherup, R-Central Square, also reminded residents the virus remains active in the county and individuals should assume exposure to the virus is possible anywhere.
“With restrictions lifted, I urge residents to protect themselves in public spaces, especially if they are not vaccinated,” Weatherup said. “Now is not the time to let our guard down and abandon safety practices. If you have not been vaccinated yet, now it the time to get your shot.”
According to state Department of Health (DOH) data, roughly 50 percent of Oswego County residents have been fully vaccinated, a number slightly below the 55 percent national average and 56 percent statewide number.
New York and the New England states have some of the highest vaccination rates in the nation, along with Hawaii, Washington, New Mexico and Maryland. States with the lowest vaccination rates, including Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana, have seen some of the highest case increases in recent weeks, with officials noting the overwhelming majority of new cases are occurring in unvaccinated individuals.
Due to the recent slowdown in vaccinations, local officials have pivoted to targeting specific populations. Huang said county health officials recently visited homeless shelters, homebound individuals and other low coverage zip codes across the county.
“We’re also opening our walk-in clinics every Wednesday and extending our hours so we can accommodate people who have day-time regular jobs,” Huang said of the county’s weekly walk-in clinics at the county Health Department on Bunner Street.
Huang noted data shows fully vaccinated individuals are less likely to suffer from severe disease, require hospitalizations and die due to complications from the virus.
“When we vaccinated more people, especially senior citizens, we immediately saw proportionately older people’s percentage of cases in the county was reduced,” Huang said.