Garrison outbreak in ‘contained setting’ fuels recent spike in Putnam cases
■ Starting Sept. 25, the U.S. government is again offering free at-home COVID-19 tests. The government had suspended the program on June 1 after shipping more than 755 million at-home tests. With deaths attributed to COVID-19 rising, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it planned to spend $600 million on the new program. Households can order four free tests through COVIDTests.gov. They will be shipped by the U.S. Postal Service beginning the week of Oct. 2. The tests also can be ordered by calling 800-232-0233 (TTY 888-720-7489).
■ A spike in reported COVID cases in Putnam County between Aug. 27 and Sept. 2, from 69 to 147 infections, has been highest in Garrison, where an outbreak took place in a “contained setting,” the Putnam County Health Department said on Friday (Sept. 8). The department did not provide details on the outbreak but said “infection control procedures have been implemented and the health department is monitoring the situation.” Putnam Hospital reported eight new COVID admissions, its highest total since February, said the county.
■ New York State announced on Sept. 5 that it will provide rapid tests and N-95 and KN-95 masks to school districts and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) on request. The state Education Department said it would survey schools about their needs.
■ A vaccine against a new variant, BA.2.86, is expected to arrive at pharmacies and doctors’ offices in September. “While New Yorkers might want to be done with COVID-19, COVID-19 isn’t done with us,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Aug. 29. “With the increase in hospitalizations and reported cases this summer, I strongly urge everyone to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves and their communities.”
■ Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have more than doubled statewide over the last month, although they are still below the 4,350 inpatients reported on Jan. 3. On Tuesday (Aug. 15), state hospitals held 947 COVID-19 patients (85 in intensive-care units), a sharp increase from July 13, when 387 people were hospitalized, including 44 in ICUs. In the Mid-Hudson region, which includes Dutchess and Putnam counties, the state reported 123 COVID-19 patients in hospitals on Tuesday, compared to 48 on July 13.
■ The Food and Drug Administration said on Tuesday that it is authorizing the use of the bivalent vaccines as the sole COVID shot going forward for children and adults and approved a second booster shot of the bivalent vaccine for adults 65 and older who have gone at least four months since their first one. The bivalent, a combination of the original vaccine and an updated one that specifically targets the Omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19, was originally authorized as a booster dose. The original Pfizer and Moderna vaccines approved as initial doses are no longer authorized, according to the FDA.
■ COVID-19 rose to become the third-leading cause of death in Dutchess and Putnam counties in 2020, behind heart disease and cancer, according to mortality data from the state Department of Health. In Dutchess, the virus killed 264 people that year, while heart disease was the cause of death for 765 people and cancer for 567. Putnam recorded 123 deaths from COVID, 214 for heart disease and 178 for cancer.
■ Nursing homes no longer need to require that visitors show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or undergo temperature checks and screening for their infection risk, according to new guidance issued by the state Department of Health on March 17. Nursing homes can still require a negative test or screen visitors if they choose, according to the state.
■ Masks will no longer be required in hospitals, nursing homes and other health care settings as of Feb. 12, the state Department of Health said on Feb. 10. The updated guidance aligns with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, according to DOH. Facilities can still implement their mask policies for staff and visitors that are more stringent than the CDC’s guidelines, said the state.
■ The 7-day average of cases per 100,000 in Dutchess County stood at 11.9 as of Feb. 9, continuing a steady decline after hitting a fall/winter peak of 26.1 on Sept. 21. The average for Putnam County peaked at 34.1 on Dec. 14 for the same period, but had fallen to 12.1 as of Thursday.
By the Numbers
■ State health officials said that, as of Sept. 25, there was a seven-day average of 19.1 cases per 100,000 people in Putnam and 15.3 per 100,000 in Dutchess.
■ Statewide, at least 63,257 people had died as of Sept. 25, including 150 residents of Putnam County and 755 from Dutchess.
■ As of Sept. 25, 72.4 percent of Dutchess residents had completed the primary vaccine series and 24.8 percent of those eligible for boosters were up to date, according to the COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker. In Beacon (12508), 69.1 percent had completed the primary series and 20.5 percent of those eligible were up to date.
■ As of Sept. 25, 76.9 percent of Putnam residents had completed the primary vaccine series and 22.0 percent of those eligible for boosters were up to date. In Cold Spring and Philipstown (10516), 89.1 percent of residents had received a primary series and 32.8 percent were up to date, while in Garrison (10524), 83.7 percent had received a primary series and 25.9 percent were up to date.
■ The level of spread in Putnam County is again categorized as “high” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends that people in counties with that status wear masks while inside public spaces, avoid indoor activities and receive updated booster shots.
■ As of Jan. 3, Putnam County had been upgraded to “medium” on the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions scale of COVID-19 spread. At that level, mask-wearing in public indoor spaces and on public transportation is no longer recommended, unless someone is at high risk for serious illness. The 7-day average of cases per 100,000 in Putnam stood at 26.6 on Tuesday, compared to 34.1 on Dec. 14.
■ Questions? Dutchess County posts updates at dutchessny.gov and has a hotline at 845-486-3555. Putnam County posts info at putnamcountyny.com. New York State has a hotline at 888-364-3065 and a webpage at coronavirus.health.ny.gov, which is also where you can find a testing site. The state also created an email list to provide updates. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posts updates at cdc.gov. Excelsior Pass is a free app that can be used to access proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test. See epass.ny.gov.