COVID New Year Challenges in Western New York
by Annette Pinder
As Governor Andrew M. Cuomo continues to keep New Yorkers apprised of the state’s progress during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he recently said, “It’s all about hospitalization rate and hospital capacity. In the broad scope of things, we’re dealing with increases in hospitalizations.” When the Governor made this statement, there were a total of 53,000 hospital beds in all of New York state, with 35,000 occupied, and of which 4,000 were COVID patients. Here in Western New York there were 432 people hospitalized with COVID with a 9 percent positive testing rate.
Clearly, we have to do better, which health experts say is fairly simple — adhering to public health guidelines, such as masking, social-distancing, handwashing, and not gathering indoors with individuals who do not live in your household. That seems pretty basic, but the number of people who ignored these recommendations, particularly over the Thanksgiving holiday, have placed a burden on all of us.
Aside from getting people to comply and hold on a bit longer because help is on the way, Cuomo knows that the greatest challenge will be vaccine distribution and vaccine acceptance. He said, “The vaccine is the weapon that is going to win the COVID war, and that is the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not a short tunnel, but we know the way through this. We just have to get there, and we have to get there with as little loss of life as possible.” However, widespread vaccine distribution won’t happen immediately, and not only are the number of COVID-19 cases rising virtually everywhere, but they are stemming from a new source, with nearly 70 percent of cases being traced back to households and private gatherings.
Governor Cuomo says the federal government has promised that New York will be getting its first 170,000 doses of the vaccine in the coming weeks. However, he says, “While that is certainly welcomed news, the federal vaccination plan not only overlooks the black, brown, and poor communities, but its data sharing provisions will dissuade the undocumented community from getting a vaccination. Winning the war against COVID has to be an inclusive process, and only by everyone working together will we be successful. While we continue to fight to make the federal plan more inclusive, effective, and fair, New Yorkers need to do their part to help limit the spread.”
Aside from simple everyday health measures, the governor hopes to curb the spread through New York’s partnership with Prescryptive Health to provide expanded COVID-19 testing capacity across the state to areas where testing access is limited. This includes 150 new rapid testing locations statewide. Prescryptive’s digital health platform will manage deployment of rapid test kits, and provide the technology to manage inventory, schedule appointments, and report results in a timely manner. Residents can find participating sites, schedule a test, receive results, and follow-up with licensed clinicians directly from their mobile device. All testing sites will be searchable on the state’s COVID test site website at https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/find-test-site-near-you, and appointments for these sites will be also available at www.prescryptive.com. To learn more about COVID-19 testing and what you can do to help stop the spread, visit www.erie.gov or call 716-858-2929. Also visit www.erie.gov/covid19.