Coronavirus Update (July to October)

Covid Update

Vaccine available for children between 5 and 11 years old

■ The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized on Oct. 29 the emergency use of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine for children between 5 and 11 years old. The doses for children are given three weeks apart and are each 10 micrograms, one-third of the 30 micrograms administered to those 12 and older, according to a press release from the FDA. The Pfizer vaccine was found to be 91 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 in children between 5 and 11,  said the agency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet next week to “discuss further clinical recommendations,” according to the announcement.

■  Nearly 3,200 hospital workers (.62 percent of the statewide total) and just over 1,600 nursing home staff (1.12 percent) have been fired because they are unvaccinated, according to the state data released on Oct. 27. Another 1,571 hospital workers (0.30 percent) and 83 staff (0.06 percent) resigned or retired rather than become vaccinated, and 0.56 percent of hospital employees and 0.64 percent of nursing home staff have been furloughed or put on unpaid leave for being unvaccinated or unwilling to get the shots.

■ The Food and Drug Administration on Oct. 20 authorized booster shots for the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines. Under an expanded emergency use authorization, a booster of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be available to for people 18 and older two months after their initial dose. The Moderna booster is authorized for people over 65 years old and those 18 to 64 who are at high risk of severe COVID-19 or exposed to the coronavirus in an institution or job. The FDA also authorized the mixing of different vaccines and a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine for anyone 18 to 64 years old who is at risk of infection in an institution or job and received their last shot at least six months prior.

■ Live music will return in November to Quinn’s in Beacon, which announced last month that it was shutting down temporarily in response to a rise in COVID-19 infections. The bar said it has made “COVID-related realignments,” which include masks and proof-of-vaccination requirements.

■ The rate of nursing home staff having at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine reached 92 percent as of Sept. 27, the last day for them and hospital workers to get inoculated or risk losing their jobs. As of Oct. 14, 90 percent of hospital workers in Dutchess County had been vaccinated and 88 percent in Putnam.

■ New York launched a website with information on Pfizer vaccine booster shots, including eligibility requirements and frequently asked questions, Hochul announced on Sept. 27. The governor also said that $65 million will be provided to local health departments to help them distribute boosters and that emergency medical technicians are now eligible to vaccinated residents. Information on boosters can be found here.

■ Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said on Sept. 24 that 53 percent of the county residents who died in August as of that date were unvaccinated, 40 percent were vaccinated and the vaccination status of 7 percent was unknown. Of the unvaccinated residents who died, 75 percent had significant underlying health problems and their age averaged 70. All of the vaccinated residents who died had significant underlying medical conditions and their age averaged 84, said Molinaro. Dutchess had recorded 487 deaths among residents as of Sept. 24. Another three deaths were reported on Sept. 26.

■ The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for people 65 and older, nursing home residents and people 50 to 64 years old with underlying conditions who have gone at least six months since their first Pfizer shots. The CDC, in guidance released on Sept. 24, also said that people 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions and those 18 t0 64 with a high risk of exposure to COVID-19 because of their job or residing in an institutional setting may receive a booster. Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for booster shots.

■ New York is now posting data on infections among fully vaccinated residents — so-called “breakthrough” cases — on a new webpage. As of Oct. 10, the state was reporting 106,308 confirmed breakthrough infections, 0.9 percent of residents fully vaccinated. Of those infections, 7,091 required hospitalization.

■The Roundhouse in Beacon will begin requiring customers ages 12 and older to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination beginning Oct. 7 in order to eat in its restaurant, outdoor patio or lounge, according to a Sept. 17 post on Facebook. Children under 12, who are not yet eligible for the vaccines, must be accompanied by a fully vaccinated adult.

■A hiring freeze for state agencies put in place during the pandemic has been suspended, with the state estimating revenues will be $2.1 billion above projections for the current fiscal year, Hochul said on Sept. 16. The state workforce shrunk to about 107,500 employees from 118,000 between March 2020 and last month, she said. Under the freeze, agencies had to obtain an waiver from the Division of the Budget to fill positions.

■ New York is mandating masks for children 2 years old and up, and all staff and visitors at state-regulated daycare centers, Hochul said on Sept. 15. The state also issued a mask mandate for residents and staff at residential facilities “operated, licensed, certified and approved” by the state Office of Children and Family Services, and programs and facilities licensed by or registered with four other state offices: Mental Health, Addiction Services and Supports, People with Developmental Disabilities and Temporary and Disability Assistance. The mandates apply even to those who are vaccinated, said Hochul.

■ Dutchess County is opening five vaccination and testing sites for teachers and school staff on Sept. 15. The sites will offer rapid COVID-19 tests and and first and second doses of the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to faculty and staff who work at a school in Dutchess or live in the county. The sites will also provide booster shots to those who are eligible. Information on locations, dates and times can be found here.

■Dutchess County is offering free COVID-19 testing to the public at the former JCPenney site at Poughkeepsie Galleria from 3 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. The site is located at 2001 South Road in Poughkeepsie. Free testing will also be offered the CVS Plaza Dover in Dover from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays. The county is accepting registration online and walk-ins.

■ The Haldane school district is in the process of implementing a COVID-19 testing process for unvaccinated faculty and staff, Superintendent Phil Benante said on Sept. 9. Benante also announced the procedure parents must follow if a student is experiencing “new or worsening” symptoms of infection, even if vaccinated. The student must remain home until they have obtained a negative PCR test (rapid or at-home tests are not acceptable), their symptoms are improving and they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours; or the student has been home for at least 10 days past the onset of symptoms, the symptoms are improving and the student is fever-free for at least 24 hours; or a doctor provides a note documenting a diagnosis other than COVID-19.

■ Administrators, teachers and staff at public and private K-12 schools will have to be tested weekly for COVID-19 unless they provide proof of vaccination, Hochul said on Sept. 2. The state’s Public Health and Health Planning Council passed an emergency regulation on Thursday requiring the testing, said Hochul. The state Department of Health also released official guidance for schools, she said. The announcement comes a week after the state issued a mask mandate for schools.

■Over the last month, most of the new COVID-19 cases in Dutchess County have involved people between 20 and 39 years old, said County Executive Marc Molinaro on Aug. 27. He also said that 79 percent of the people interviewed during that period by contact tracers were not vaccinated. Of people hospitalized between Aug. 15 and Aug. 21 in the county, 25 percent were between 19 and 54 years old, 45 percent were between 54 and 65 and 30 percent were 75 and older, said Molinaro.

■ The federal Food and Drug Administration gave full approval on Aug. 23 to the COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer for people 16 years old and up, a step that health officials believe will spur more employers to mandate that employees become inoculated. Pfizer, one of three COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use and the only one available for people under 18 years old, is the first to receive full approval. It will be marketed as Comirnaty (koe-mir’-na-tee) and continue to be available on an emergency basis to adolescents between 12 and 15 years old, according to the FDA. The emergency authorization for Pfizer’s vaccine will also still apply to the recommended third dose for people with compromised immune systems.

■ Visitation at Northern Dutchess in Rhinebeck, Putnam Hospital Center in Carmel and Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie was “paused” as of Aug. 19, said Nuvance Health, whose system also includes four hospitals in Connecticut. The policy allowed exceptions for patients under 21, those in maternity wards or neonatal intensive care units, and for patients near death.

■On Aug. 17, Nuvance Health announced that it was requiring all current employees to show proof of full vaccination by Oct. 1. Effective Aug. 23, new hires must also show proof.

■ The federal government is laying to groundwork to begin offering booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccines to everyone starting Sept. 20, according to a statement issued on Aug. 18 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Current data “make very clear” that protection from the virus that causes COVID-19 “begins to decrease over time” and that the vaccines defense from severe illness, hospitalization and death “could diminish in the months ahead,” said HHS. The shots will be offered subject to the federal Food and Drug Administration’s evaluation of the effectiveness and safety of a third dose of the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. People would be eligible to receive the booster shot eight months after their final dose. The government is also expecting that booster shots will be needed for those who receiving the single-dose vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson.

■ New York is ordering health care workers, including those at hospitals, nursing homes and long-term-care facilities, to become vaccinated by Sept. 27, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Aug. 16. As of Monday, 75 percent of the state’s roughly 450,000 hospital workers, 74 percent of 30,000 adult care facility workers and 68 percent of the state’s 145,500 nursing home workers have been fully vaccinated, according to the state. Employees can request exemptions for medical and religious reasons.

■ Cold Spring is now mandating that even vaccinated people wear masks when visiting Village Hall, according to a Facebook post on Aug. 10. The policy reflects updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

■ Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Port Authority employees who work at New York facilities will have to be vaccinated by Labor Day or be subjected to weekly COVID-19 testing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Aug. 2 as new infections continued to rise. Nine vaccination sites will open in areas with a high number of state employees, said Cuomo, including one at Eleanor Roosevelt State Office Building in Poughkeepsie.

■ After dropping dramatically in June, infections in Dutchess and Putnam have been rising since last month, accelerating from the end of July into the first few days of August. Active cases in Dutchess County have increased more than fivefold and in Putnam more than sevenfold since July 1, when the level of coronavirus transmission in both counties was rated “low” by the CDC.

■ The 76 cases reported for Dutchess on Wednesday was the county’s highest one-day total since April 17, and it averaged 40 new cases a day for the previous week, compared to 3.4 during the first week of July. People hospitalized for COVID-19 in the county jumped from 1 on July 28 to 12 on Tuesday. Beacon, where active cases had not exceeded five for a prolonged stretch and where the vaccination rate is below the state average, stood at 15 as of Tuesday, according to county data.

■ The news was just as bad for Putnam, which averaged 11.8 new cases a day during the same week, up substantially from 0.5 during the first seven days of last month. Active cases in Philipstown, where the vaccination rate is well above the state average, were still at or below five as of July 29.

■ The Canadian border will open on Aug. 9 to fully vaccinated travelers.

■ A party at a house in Red Hook is believed to be the source of an outbreak of COVID-19 cases that “impacted” the town’s summer school, camp and pool programs, said Dutchess County on Tuesday (July 20). The county said that eight confirmed cases, among both adults and children, were related to the party. The total included several people who had been vaccinated, the county said, adding that there were no hospitalizations or deaths.

■ New York State is now taking applications for its Public Health Corps Fellowship Program, which will train up to 1,000 people to respond to COVID-19 and other public health emergencies and place them in full-time paid positions with the state Department of Health, local health departments and other public health entities. Fellows are trained through an online program offered by Cornell University, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday (July 16). Visit ny.gov/publichealthcorps for more information and to apply.

■ The state-run mass vaccination site at SUNY Orange in Middletown will close on July 26, along with four other locations, Cuomo said on July 20.  The state will also close sites at Binghamton University, Aviation Mall in Queensbury and Stony Brook Southampton.

■ Cuomo signed legislation on July 1 prohibiting public employers from punishing workers who use sick leave or other compensatory time for COVID-19-related absences, including quarantine and medical treatment.

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