As the number of COVID-19 cases rises nationally and in New York, counties in the Hudson Valley are also seeing their numbers increase. One leader says his county is at the beginning of a second wave, while another is hopeful as a drug company with offices in his county is developing a COVID-19 vaccine.
On November 9, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech announced that their vaccine candidate has shown to be more than 90 percent effective against COVID-19. This was based on a study that enrolled more than 43,500 participants, with 42 percent having diverse backgrounds, and no serious safety concerns emerging. While they continue to collect safety and additional efficacy data, they plan to submit for Emergency Use Authorization next week to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Republican Rockland County Executive Ed Day:
“Pfizer’s Pearl River site, yes, Pearl River, local, Rockland County, is the primary research and development center for developing this vaccine aimed at preventing COVID-19 infections. My thanks and congratulations to the hardworking team in Pearl River,” says Day. “I can only, it’s difficult to describe how great it felt to hear this news as the county executive, to hear your county being front and center of something that could potentially save this planet."
Meantime, Day says his county has seen about a 40 percent drop in the number of active COVID cases since early October, from a high of 1,649 cases to 992 active cases as of Monday. He says the number of active cases has remained about the same over the past three weeks. In early October, Governor Andrew Cuomo imposed color-coded zones with varying restrictions in areas with growing COVID clusters. Red zones were imposed in the Town of Ramapo, which have since been downgraded. Day questions whether another shutdown would be effective.
“So, when you make a red zone, the one critical piece that’s missing is an effort to try to ensure that people stay within that zone and not travel elsewhere,” Day says. “So, it would seem to me that if we’re going to have any more zones created that’s defined by the residences of people in a certain area, it has to come with a request, at the very least, or an urging, at the very least, by the governor that says, basically, to the people who live there, look, the exposure period or the incubation period is a couple of weeks, as part of this process we’re going to really request that you stay in the neighborhood. And this will give it a chance to, to, to, everything to calm down and not let the spread get outside of those red zones.”
Meantime, Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan says cases have been on the rise since early October.
“At the end of the day, it’s clear now, looking at the data, that we are at the beginning of a second wave of COVID-19 in Ulster County,” Ryan says.
During his Thursday briefing, Ryan says there were 42 new cases in 48 hours, with 23 in the past day.
“We’re still early enough that what we do in the next few days and weeks will really, really matter in terms of controlling and slowing the spread and really blunting a second wave so that it doesn’t look as steep as that first wave,” says Ryan.
He says active case rates are at the highest point since mid-June.
“These numbers and these indicators should and must serve as a wakeup call for us,” Ryan says. "Some of the points that I think are most telling, again, 1.91 percent new positivity rate in the last 24 hours — that is a wakeup call; 337 active cases, the highest we’ve been in many, many months — that is a wakeup call; 12 hospitalizations, the highest we’ve been since mid-May — very much needs to serve as a wake-up call.”
He says of the 12 hospitalizations, one is in the ICU. On Wednesday, Governor Cuomo announced that restaurants, bars and gyms must close by 10 p.m. statewide, beginning Friday night. Republican Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus addressed this during his daily COVID briefing Thursday.
“There is some pushback. We had a call not too long ago because you have first responders, healthcare workers, police officers, firefighters, whatever, that have different shifts, so their time to go might be later at night,” says Neuhaus. “When I used to go to the gym, I used to go 9:30, 10 o’clock at night until like maybe 10:30, 11, just for an hour, hour-and-a-half, whatever. So I get it. You see a lot of people that, depending on what their schedules are, they go there. So, there might be some flexibility with it, but, as it stands right now, tomorrow [Friday, Nov. 13] they’re going to close at 10.”
And he says clarifications might come with regard to bars and restaurants closing at 10 p.m.
“There is some, some discussion from Albany that is, does that mean if you show up at 9:45 at a restaurant and you sit your butt down in a chair at a table with your family or your friends, can you stay or do you gotta get the boot at 10 o’clock?” says Neuhaus. “That’s now being discussed.”
Neuhaus said he would give an update during his late Friday briefing should the governor’s office offer any new details. Cuomo says restaurants will still be allowed to provide curbside, food-only pick-up or delivery service after 10 p.m., but will not be permitted to serve alcohol to go. Meantime, Neuhaus says Orange has 208 new COVID cases since Tuesday.
“We, unfortunately had two people pass away, neither of which were in a nursing home,” says Neuhaus. “One was a senior citizen. One was just a few years older than me.”
Other Hudson Valley counties are also seeing their active case numbers grow.