According to Vice President of Medical Affairs at Vassar Brothers Medical Center Dr. William Begg, Dutchess County is already facing the second surge of the COVID-19 pandemic. As reflected by the Dutchess County COVID-19 Community Impact Dashboard, COVID-19 cases have doubled in Dutchess County since the beginning of November. As of Wednesday Nov. 18, there were 576 active cases, and a 3.7 percent rate of COVID-19 tests in the Mid-Hudson Region having positive results.
Begg explained that because the country is experiencing a second surge of COVID-19, a second wave was expected in Dutchess county. He also said that hospitals, including Vassar Brothers Medical Center, are now more prepared to handle a potential outbreak than at the onset of the pandemic. Vassar Brothers has a surge plan, which is a document detailing how to handle a possible flood of cases.
“We’re preparing for a very large surge, whether it comes or not. We all understand, things will probably get worse before they get better because the number of patients in the hospital lags two weeks behind the number of new COVID cases. Also, with the holidays and people moving indoors with colder weather, there is an increased chance of people transmitting COVID because they’re in closer quarters” said Begg.
He continued, “During the first surge, the number of patients increased daily very, very quickly. This time it’s a slow rise in the number of patients which gives us more time to prepare everything, whether it’s particular beds, units, or personal protective equipment, medication and even just staffing. The rise [in cases] is a lot less steep than the first time around.”
Medical Director and Chair of Emergency Medicine at Vassar Brothers Medical Center Dr. Livia Santiago-Rosado shared in a Facebook Live hosted by center officials and Dutchess County that Vassar Brothers is taking many precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside the hospital. Santiago-Rosado described that every person who enters the hospital must wear a mask, and that COVID-19 screening occurs at every entrance of the building. Every patient admitted is tested. They also separate anyone who is positive, or exhibiting symptoms that could be COVID-19, away from other patients.
Beyond precautions within hospitals, doctors are pleading that people observe and maintain social distancing practices in their everyday lives. Cases across the country are rising; according to the CDC, COVID-19 cases in the United States have been increasing since September. Commissioner of the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health Dr. Anil Vaidian shared in an online briefing on Nov. 13 that this rise in cases is due to people relaxing their social distancing practices. “People are becoming lax with some of the mitigation strategies that they have held to for a long time,” he explained.
In response to climbing cases, Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department have released new regulations that state bars, gyms and restaurants must close at 10 p.m., and at-home gatherings cannot exceed 10 people. Cuomo explained that these new restrictions are in response to contact tracing, which has revealed that most COVID-19 transmissions occur at bars, restaurants, gyms and gatherings in homes.
Begg also emphasized that private gatherings have driven recent COVID spikes. He warned that people’s choices oftentime determine whether or not they will be exposed to COVID-19.
“The local community, to a significant degree, they control their own destiny as to whether they will get COVID or not. We all know about the best practices which are wearing masks, washing your hands, social distancing and not having big group gatherings. The reason why someone may or may not get COVID is whether or not they decide to follow these recommendations,” he explained.
He continued, “It seems like a silly thing to say, but everyone knows the recommendations, and the people who are most likely to get COVID are the ones that don’t follow these recommendations. The number one recommendation is to avoid having big gatherings over the holiday season because the people most likely to get bad COVID are older family members who get COVID inadvertently from the younger generation.”