Ahead of holidays, COVID-19 increasing in New York’s rural counties

ALBANY — New York’s overall COVID-19 spread has remained steady over the past month, with the percent of people testing positive remaining roughly between 2 and 3 percent.

But a dive into the data shows it is the most populated and dense part of the state — New York City’s five boroughs — that is keeping the state’s overall numbers low. A handful of upstate rural counties are experiencing infection rates that are in some cases eight times what is being experienced in places like the Bronx and Queens.

The counties with the highest percentages of tests coming back positive are also among the counties with the lowest vaccination rates in New York.

The statewide seven-day average for percent of tests coming back positive was reported as 2.47 percent Saturday. But there are upstate regions that are starting to see an increase, with the highest being the Finger Lakes at 6.26 percent and western New York at 6.14 percent.

The counties seeing the most tests coming back positive also are rural.

Western New York’s Allegany County has a seven-day positivity average of 10.6 percent, the highest of any county in the state. Allegany County also has one of the lowest vaccination rates with 43.9 percent of the population getting at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Behind it are Orleans County in Western New York, at 9.9 percent; Fulton County in the Mohawk Valley, at 9 percent; and Wyoming and Cattaragus counties, the North Country’s Lewis County and Washington County in the Capital Region seeing between 8 and 9 percent of tests coming back positive as of Saturday. All of those counties have vaccination rates below 54 percent, except for Washington, which has seen 61.1 percent of people getting at least one dose.

Meanwhile, Manhattan had the lowest seven-day average of tests coming back positive Saturday at 0.8 percent. It also has the highest percentage of people vaccinated, with 85 percent of people getting at least one dose of vaccine. The Bronx was right behind it at 0.9 percent of tests coming back positive.

While there is a COVID-19 vaccine available to all individuals over the age of 5, the rate discrepancy has more urgency as the holiday season approaches and more people are together indoors. Pre-vaccine, the pandemic in New York reached its highest level of infections about two weeks after New Year’s Day 2021.

It is another reason why vaccination of 5- to 11-year-olds, which the FDA approved late last week, will be pushed even more.

“With our newly released guidance today for medical professionals and website with resources for parents and guardians, we are not wasting any time in helping administer the vaccine to children five to 11 years old,” Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement Saturday.

“We must work together to finally beat this pandemic by wearing our masks, washing our hands, and getting our shots so that we can all enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season.”






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