More county governments could soon be declaring emergency declarations as COVID cases have ticked upward in recent weeks in New York, the state organization that represents local governments on Thursday said.
At the same time, county governments are calling for bolstered testing and vaccination efforts for COVID-19 as a new variant of concern has been found in New York.
COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been on the rise statewide nearly two years into the pandemic, with 56 hospitals around the state facing a capacity crunch due to a shortage of fully staffed beds.
About two-thirds of county governments do not have emergency declarations in place, but the New York State Association of Counties on Thursday evening said that could change in the "coming weeks."
That's reflective, too, of how the recent increase in cases has been uneven across New York, with upstate regions — especially western New York and the Finger Lakes counties — seeing the sharper rise in cases.
“The regional differences in positive and hospital rates is remarkable. Western New York and the Finger Lake regions are reporting their most dire numbers since the pandemic began,” said the group's executive director, Stephen Acquario. “As has been true since the beginning of this pandemic, counties are the tip of the spear in responding to the virus and today we discussed what our members are seeing on the front lines and what we’ll be looking for from the state."
It's not year clear what effect the omicron variant will have on the pandemic. Hochul on Thursday announced more access to rapid tests, including having insurance cover their purchase. More mass vaccination sites are opening as well, including one in Warren County.
County governments, meanwhile, are calling for rapid PCR tests at nursing homes, schools and for residents in the community at large. They are also calling for reopening state-run mass vaccination and testing clinics, the deployment of National Guard troops from regions of the state that have not been as impacted by the spike in cases and the establishment of further incentive programs for vaccination.
“After 20 long and weary months fighting COVID, rather than chocolates and candies, give our local health workers the gift they truly need: Get vaccinated, get boosted, and wear a mask in crowded spaces,” said NYSAC President Marte Sauerbrey, the chairwoman of the Tioga County Legislature.