Declining cases, vaccinations two years late

On March 13, 2020, Dutchess, Ulster and Orange counties decided to close schools for – at the time – at least two weeks, due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

On March 13, 2022, there were only 100 active cases of COVID-19 among residents of Dutchess County. Sunday marked the sixth straight day the county had fewer than 110 cases.

Between those days, there have been over 63,400 confirmed cases at Dutchess, over 650 people diagnosed with the virus have died and thousands of people have felt the impact of the pandemic due to loss of work, contexts strained educational, isolation or otherwise.

Two years later, the county is enjoying its longest respite from rising case counts since July and most statewide COVID safety measures have ended, even as the county continues to fight against vaccine hesitancy.

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According to the state, 73.5% of New York residents have completed their initial vaccination round, compared to 69% of Dutchess residents. This is a lower percentage than Ulster (74.1%), Putnam (73.4%) and Westchester (79.3%), but higher than Orange (61.1%) and Rockland (62.8 %).

Nearly a year after the vaccine was made available to all adults in the state, seven ZIP codes with 1,300 or more residents in Dutchess remain with a vaccination rate below 60%, including the code postal 12582 of 6,200 residents in Stormville at 48.1%. The low is 12504 in Annandale-On-Hudson at 37.7%.

Eight other Dutchess postcodes are below 65%, including the largest in the county, 12601 in the town and city of Poughkeepsie, at 62.8%, and Beacon’s 12508 at 64.8%.

With the exception of Vassar College postcode 12604, Rhinebeck’s 12572 has the highest Dutchess vaccination rate, 83.4%.

These don’t account for recalls, though the state recently began posting recall rates on its health department dashboard.

In Dutchess, 37.4% of the inhabitants received half a reminder, including 59.8% of those who were entitled to it. This matches the statewide totals, with 37.6% of the boosted population and 56.1% of the booster-eligible population received one.

As is the case statewide, younger residents have the lowest rates, with 31.3% of Dutchess children ages 5-11, 63.2% of 12-17, and 62.8 % of 18-25 year olds who have completed their initial series of vaccines.

While Dutchess trails the statewide numbers, her vaccination rate is still well above parts of western New York and southern areas, where some counties have a lower rate than 50%.

Although vaccines do not prevent recipients from becoming infected, they have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of infection and serious symptoms requiring hospitalization. The effectiveness of the initial and booster shots has been shown to decline after several months, although the overwhelming majority of those who required hospitalization during the recent spike in the omicron variant were those who had not been vaccinated.

About 85.1% of Dutchess residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, although the rate at which new residents receive their first dose has slowed over the past month.

Dutchess County halted its vaccination clinics in the Poughkeepsie Galleria earlier this month. It continues to offer the vaccine to adults at the Family Partnership Center at 29 North Hamilton St. in the town of Poughkeepsie Monday through Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. by appointment only.

Vaccines are also available at most CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens locations, several local pharmacies, most doctor’s offices, and many urgent care centers.

The total number of cases has fallen since late January, after omicron and holiday gatherings led to an all-time high of 8,510 known active cases in Dutchess on January 8. This has led to most mask and distancing requirements being lifted in the state, despite the lagging vaccination rate.

On Sunday, the most recent day for which Dutchess County shared data on its online dashboard, there were 100 active cases of COVID-19 among residents; Thursday’s 90 cases were the only time since mid-July that the number was in triple digits. Eleven residents were in county hospitals with the virus, although only six came to the hospital with a serious case. A total of at least 651 people have died from the virus, including three in the first 13 days of this month.

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