Dutchess Sets Single-Day High for New Cases

Molinaro calls rise in hospitalizations ‘alarming’

Dutchess County set a new high for daily high confirmed COVID-19 cases as infections surge and residents are hospitalized at a rate that will be unsustainable for local hospitals, County Executive Marc Molinaro said on Wednesday (Dec. 2). 

Dutchess recorded 163 cases on Thursday, its highest single-day total since the pandemic shutdown began in March. The previous daily high of 158 cases was reached on two separate days: on May 18, when the county tested roughly a third of those tested on Thursday, and again on Tuesday (Dec. 1).

The county also reported that 77 residents were hospitalized as of Tuesday, a marked increase from six on Nov. 1 and a number that doubled over the last two weeks of November. During the first wave of infections in the spring, hospitalizations in Dutchess peaked at 108 on April 9. 

Molinaro described the rising hospitalizations as “alarming” because of the stress it places on medical facilities. “The pace of growth in hospitalizations is not something the system can sustain for a long period of time,” he said during his weekly Facebook town hall session. 

The state reported 1,947 infections in Dutchess for November and the first day of December — nearly five times the cases reported in October and seven times those from September. According to the state, about 70 percent of infections have been traced to households and small gatherings. 

Putnam County is also facing a steep rise in cases. Nearly one in 12 Putnam residents tested on Tuesday — 89 out of 1,036 — was positive. There were 1,023 cases in November, more than four times the cases in October and eight times the number in September. 

Eight patients were hospitalized as of Nov. 24, double the number from five days earlier. On Oct. 1, Putnam had just one person hospitalized with the virus. 

In Dutchess, Molinaro said he has asked the state to reopen a drive-thru testing site in the county. In March, Nuvance Health and the county opened a temporary site at Dutchess Stadium north of Beacon.

In addition to more cases, Molinaro said, some COVID-19 patients who otherwise could be discharged to nursing homes or other health care facilities are being kept longer because of the contagious nature of the virus, leaving fewer beds. Hospitals are also addressing a backlog of elective procedures that were canceled or postponed during the first shutdown. 

Mark Hirko, a doctor and the president of Putnam Hospital in Carmel, which is part of the seven-hospital Nuvance Health System, said that small peaks and valleys in COVID-19 admissions were normal since the first wave subsided. But over the last month, there has been “a sustained increase in the number of people coming to the emergency room, being tested and requiring the need for hospitalization” he said.

Nuvance and its hospitals, which include Northern Dutchess in Rhinebeck and Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, had entered this current wave battle-hardened from the first wave, when hospitals essentially focused exclusively on treating COVID-19 patients. They already had response plans in place as cases rose and emergency rooms began seeing a rise in people with symptoms of infections, Hirko said.

“Over the last six months we’ve been able to game out what a potential surge would be — and the experience that we had learned from the previous surge that occurred in the spring — and take those lessons and get a game plan out,” he said.

Statewide, hospitalizations totaled 4,063 on Wednesday, a level last seen on May 26. Hospitalizations in the Mid-Hudson Region have nearly quadrupled since Nov. 1, from 120 to 545, as have the number of COVID patients in intensive care units, from 22 to 83. 

Hospitals in the Mid-Hudson Region had, over a seven-day average, 30 percent of their total beds and 50 percent of their ICU beds available as of Tuesday. 

On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a “winter plan” in response to the wave of infections, including the introduction by the state Department of Health of emergency hospital measures. Hospitals were directed to have plans to increase bed capacity by 50 percent, identify retired doctors and nurses who could deployed and prepare for the use of field hospitals.

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