OSWEGO — The Oswego County Health Department’s latest weekly report concerning new COVID-19 infections shows no sign of the virus quelling locally anytime soon.

Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang announced Monday that 564 additional residents tested positive last week.

Since the county began monitoring for COVID-19 in March 2020, there have been 11,656 positive cases, according to the Oswego County Health Department (OCHD).

According to the health department release, there are currently 601 active positive cases. The release said two additional COVID-19 deaths have been reported to the New York State Department of Health.

“Our deepest condolences go out to the loved ones of these patients,” Huang said.

Oswego County’s community transmission level remains “high,” and 66 percent of vaccine-eligible residents are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Huang said despite the drop in COVID-19 cases around the country, since mid-September Oswego County’s seven-day accumulated case counts continue to rise.

Huang said they compared cases reported between the first seven days of August 2021 to the seven-day period from Sept. 16-22.

“Positive cases among those who are fully vaccinated went down 31 percent in August to 29 percent in September,” he said, “while the positive cases in those who are unvaccinated increased from 66 percent to 69 percent in the same time period.”

The remaining small percentages were cases in which the vaccination status of the individual was not verifiable, according to the release.

Huang said it was worth noting COVID-19 cases increased “drastically” in the age group not eligible for vaccination, from 6 percent in August to 22 percent in September. 

Huang added, “The percentage of positive cases among vaccine-eligible groups, however, was either reduced or only slightly increased.”

“Among the cases, close to 30 percent are school related.” Huang added.

Huang said he understands why some people are cautious about vaccinating their children.

“People are misinformed about the vaccine,” he said. “They have concerns about it being an experimental drug and it’s still too new.”

Huang also said “vaccine hesitancy” is not a new concept.

“This is something that goes back over 200 years ago,” Huang said. “Even 120 years ago, Massachusetts had an issue with vaccinating its children from smallpox. Many people objected the case found its way to a landmark court decision.”

Huang referred to United States Supreme Court case, Jacobson v. Massachusetts in 1904

Despite the high numbers of students yet to get vaccinated, Oswego County Medical Director Dr. Christina Liepke said there are protocols in place to help the schools monitor new COVID-19 cases.

“We prioritize school-related cases and health care-related cases for case investigation first,” she said. “Schools are critical partners in these case investigations as they have been assisting in the pandemic by notifying staff and parents of students when they have been exposed and the need to quarantine and not come to school.”

Liepke said the OCHD partnered with ConnextCare at the end of the school year (2020-2021) to visit every public school district to offer COVID-19 vaccines to children 12 and older. The health department worked with Hannibal, Oswego, Fulton, Central Square, and CiTi BOCES to offer vaccines while ConnextCare worked with the rest of the school districts in the county.

“We now are partnering with local providers to supply them with COVID vaccines because research shows that many parents prefer to have their children vaccinated at their own provider,” she said. “As of yesterday when I checked the state system, 45% of 12- to 15-year-olds in Oswego County have had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.” 

Still other initiatives have been offered to encourage vaccinations.

“We attempted to encourage vaccination of the younger population by partnering with United Way this summer, who offered raffles of different prizes for those newly vaccinated under the age of 25,” Liepke said.

The United Way did three monthly drawings and gave away an Apple iPod Air and plus Walmart and Oswego Cinema gift cards in each of the drawings.

Liepke said the OCHD also promoted the vaccine to parents of children who came in for other issues.

“We also offer the COVID-19 vaccine to children when they come in for their other vaccines,” Liepke said. “The message we’re trying to get to parents and all people is that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and important, especially as we continue to see our county have increasing numbers of positive cases.”

Huang urges the public to get vaccinated if they haven’t already in an effort to better protect the community and make everyone feel safe.

“In Oswego County, we still have only two-thirds of those who are vaccine eligible that are fully vaccinated. Please get your shot today,” he said.

Free transportation is available to residents to go to COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites through a partnership between Oswego County and Oswego County Opportunities, Inc. Rides are available between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. People seeking this service may call (315) 598-1514 to schedule a ride in advance.

For more information, go to the Oswego County Health Department COVID-19 page at health.oswegocounty.com/covid19 or call its COVID-19 hotline at (315) 349-3330. Phone lines are open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. 

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