Omicron Waning

Cases plummet; hospitalizations, deaths expected to follow

The record-setting wave of COVID-19 infections ignited by the Omicron variant is receding in Dutchess and Putnam counties, and health officials expect hospitalizations and deaths to follow. 

Statewide, the number of daily cases fell to 17,305 on Wednesday (Jan. 26), from an Omicron-wave peak of more than 90,000 on Jan. 7. Daily positives dropped by 66 percent during that span, according to state data.

Locally, the average cases reported each day in Dutchess County plummeted by 67 percent and in Putnam by 77 percent between the first week of January and the week that ended on Wednesday.

In Beacon, active cases stood at 55 on Tuesday (Jan. 25), a drop of 78 percent from Jan. 5, while Philipstown had 84 cases, a decrease of 33 percent. 

“We are on the other side of a peak — the question is how fast and how long will this decline in cases continue,” said Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro during a briefing on Jan. 21. “We think that it does” continue.

It was just two months ago that the World Health Organization named Omicron a “variant of concern.” The state had already been facing a rise in cases that began in July with the emergence of the Delta variant, but the highly contagious Omicron triggered a series of measures by New York as infections soared. 

New York announced on Nov. 26 that it was ordering a “pause” on elective medical procedures that affected dozens of facilities when it took effect on Dec. 3. The state also mandated, beginning Dec. 13, that public spaces, including businesses and schools, require masks or proof of vaccination. 

The number of people hospitalized statewide during Omicron peaked at nearly 13,000 on Jan. 11, but had fallen to 8,741 on Wednesday. 

Data collected by the state shows local hospitals experiencing the same trend. In Newburgh, Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall reported 62 patients on Wednesday after peaking at 92 on Jan. 8 and averaging 78 per day during the month. NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt Manor reported 25 patients on Tuesday, its lowest total since Dec. 22 and its sixth straight day of a decline. The 13 COVID-19 patients at Putnam Hospital Center in Carmel were its fewest since Dec. 17. 

“Finally, our health care workers in some parts of the state can take a breath,” said Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday. 

What’s Next?

covid variants

In May, the World Health Organization abandoned its system of naming SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) variants as strings such as B.1.1.7 or B.1.351 and instead began to select letters from the Greek alphabet to make them easier to report and follow.

Along with five “variants of concern,” scientists are watching two “variants of interest,” dubbed Lambda (C.37) and Mu (B.1.621), and monitoring others that have not been assigned letters. Seventeen variants are no longer monitored.

If the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet are eventually all assigned, another series will be announced, WHO said.

Deaths from COVID-19, which hit an Omicron high of 195 on Jan. 12, are expected to continue falling. Vassar Brothers Hospital in Poughkeepsie reported 55 deaths since the state announced the first Omicron case on Dec. 2; Montefiore St. Luke’s has had 44; Hudson Valley Hospital, 32; and Putnam Hospital Center, nine. Nearly half of the deaths at Vassar Brothers occurred after Jan. 14. 

Molinaro said 49 percent of Dutchess residents who died at local hospitals of COVID-19 between Dec. 1 and Jan. 20 were unvaccinated and 35 percent were vaccinated. Each of the vaccinated people who died, and 79 percent of the unvaccinated, had “significant” pre-existing health problems, and the average age was over 70, he said. Another 7 percent of those who died had received only one shot, he said. 

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