COVID cases continue to surge in St. Lawrence County
BY JEFF CHUDZINSKI
North Country This Week
CANTON -- COVID cases continue to surge in St. Lawrence County, putting more strain on hospitals already stretched thin.
St. Lawrence County Board of Health President Dr. Andrew Williams presented to the county legislature on Sept. 13, highlighting potential trouble areas for the county.“I would say the hospitals are strained at the moment and could become overwhelmed if the current trends continue,” Williams said.
According to Interim Director of Public Health Jolene Munger, at the time of the presentation there were 26 hospitalizations due to COVID-19, with an average hovering in the high-20’s to low-30’s for the previous few weeks. This is a significant rise since July, when many days had single digit or no hospitalizations, she said.
Williams also spoke about hospitalizations in St. Lawrence County, mentioning that 88% of all COVID related hospitalizations are among unvaccinated individuals.
Williams also mentioned that all hospitals have been busier in general, with COVID cases exacerbating matters.
This comes as on the heels of a nationwide shortage in nurses that was occurring even prior to the pandemic.
With schools back to in-person learning, COVID testing is front and center.
Since Sept. 1, 113 positive cases have been confirmed among students and teachers. 85 cases were confirmed this week, while only 28 were confirmed for the first week.
With an average of 56 cases per week, this is the worst average since January, Munger said.
Area colleges may finally have turned a corner, with COVID cases trending down. Colleges reported 145 cases last week and only 94 this week, Munger said.
Munger also highlighted the breakdown of cases in Aug. and Sept., explaining that the current trends show younger individuals are getting sick at higher rates.
She states that children 0-19 accounted for 208 cases or 22.76% of cases in Aug. In Sept., children 0-19 already account for 249 cases or 31.2% of all cases.
Conversely, individuals 55-64 previously accounted for 235 cases in Aug. or 25.71% but only accounted for 135 cases or 16.92% in Sept.
COVID vs. Influenza
Williams also offered context about COVID in relation to influenza death statistics.
On average, around 36,000 individuals die every year from influenza, Williams said.
Though the numbers are high, only 160 pediatric deaths on average have been attributed to influenza in the last five years, he said
During the 2020-21 influenza season, only one pediatric death due to influenza was reported, Williams said.
To date, over 662,000 COVID deaths have been reported since the pandemic began
“A doctor in Baltimore coined the phrase, ‘younger, sicker, quicker’ and that’s what we are seeing now. Younger people are getting sicker quicker,” Williams said.
He did go on to say that he wanted everyone to keep context in mind.
Despite being up to 10x more transmissible among children, there have been only 486 pediatric deaths due to COVID, Williams said.
Williams also stated that sequencing conducted at SUNY Upstate by Dr. Frank Middleton, Ph.d shows that 96% of cases in St. Lawrence County are of the Delta variant. Fifty-six samples were sent for testing, according to Williams.
The numbers were consistent with the state department of health statistics, he said.
According to the CDC, vaccinated individuals are five-times less likely to be infected and ten-times less likely to be hospitalized or die due to the Delta variant, Williams said.
Vaccinations and cases
During a question period by legislators, Williams was asked if he had seen patients who had adverse reactions to the vaccine or had died as a result of the vaccine.
“When I’m in my office and I talk to people who got the vaccine, many people have a predictable, mild reaction for a day or two. And then a week later, two weeks later they’re absolutely back to normal, ” Williams said.
“The hospital is full of people with a COVID infection. The ERs are full of people with complications from a COVID infection. The ERs, the hospitals are not full of people who got a side effect from the vaccine,” Williams said regarding vaccine misinformation in the community.
Another point that was addressed was the rise in active cases.
Munger mentioned that the average number of cases per day has risen from 33 daily cases just four weeks ago to an average of 82 this week.
Weekly cases have also seen a sharp rise, she said, with 353 cases two weeks ago and 492 cases already this week.