The number of COVID-19 cases continues to surge across the region, putting strain on local hospitals.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the area continues to see a high rate of COVID-19 transmission. The highest rate of transmission is in Delaware County with a 15.09% seven-day positivity rate. Chenango County's positivity rate is 12.7%, Schoharie County's positivity rate is 11.59% and Otsego County's positivity rate is 9.77%.
Local public health departments are reporting the highest numbers of new COVID cases in months.
The Schoharie County Department of Health issued a warning on its Facebook page Sunday, Dec. 4, not only about the surge, but also about dwindling local hospital capacity.
"Our COVID-19 rates continue to skyrocket," the statement read. "Our numbers are worse than our previous peak in January 2021. If you are unvaccinated or immune compromised, please be cautious and manage your risk. The hospitals are getting very full."
The new cases are placing a heavy burden on local hospitals. On Monday, Delaware County said there were 22 hospitalizations. Chenango County reported nine people hospitalized with COVID-19. Otsego County reported 10 hospitalizations. Schoharie County did not report how many residents were hospitalized with COVID-19.
Dotti Kruppo, director of community relations at UHS Delaware Valley Hospital in Walton, said the hospital recently added four extra beds to help with the flexibility of the hospital rooms. She gave examples of needing the room for isolation, or if there were a man admitted and only a bed open in a room with a female patient, the male patient would get his own room.
Kruppo said DVH has received "quite a few UHS rehabilitation patients from other hospitals in the network," to help alleviate those hospitals' capacities.
She said in recent weeks because of the increase of COVID-19 upstate, it was harder to send patients who needed advanced care to nearby hospitals when they needed it.
"Upstate has been running higher than downstate in the past month," she said. "Syracuse, Albany and UHS Binghamton were all full. We were able to send patients to Garnet in Middletown, Harris and Westchester Medical Center."
Kruppo said she did not know how many people were hospitalized at DVH with COVID-19, but there have been some in the past week. Because of the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, DVH has restricted visitation to virtual visits only, unless the patient is receiving palliative care, or the person is visiting a patient with an intellectual or developmental disability.
Bassett Healthcare Network hasn't yet restricted visitation at its hospitals, said Gabrielle Argo, interim network manager, marketing and communications for Bassett Healthcare Network. Visitors are welcome daily from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Bassett Medical Center has 15 people hospitalized with COVID, Argo said. There are five COVID patients at A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital, four at Cobleskill Regional Hospital and two at Little Falls Hospital. There are currently no COVID-19 patients at O'Connor Hospital in Delhi.
Argo also said Bassett Medical Center's intensive care unit was full as of Monday, Dec. 6.
Argo said Bassett Medical Center doctors are still performing elective procedures "on a case-by-case basis." She said doctors are assessing whether surgeries are needed or can be delayed. "Bassett Medical Center has postponed a handful of elective surgeries over the past couple of weeks, but overall, we are doing everything possible to maintain operations to serve our patients and communities," she said
The Westchester Medical Center Health Network, which runs the Margaretville Memorial Hospital, said the "in-patient cases due to COVID-19 infection have been manageable."
County health departments and the health care centers encourage everyone who haven't been vaccinated to do so immediately, and if they have been vaccinated to get a booster shot. Those who are vaccinated are far less likely to transmit the disease to others or suffer severe illness from it.
Schoharie County listed three vaccination clinics this week at area schools for children 5 and older and for others to register to get their booster shots. Delaware County will have a vaccination clinic on Dec. 9. Chenango County will have a vaccination clinic on Friday. Vaccine appointments can also be scheduled through DVH's MyChart portal or by calling a Bassett primary care office.
Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_VickyK on Twitter.