Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan Outlines New Approach to COVID-19, County Prepared to Shift from “Pandemic” to “Endemic” Response

Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said the County is prepared to shift from two years of “pandemic” mode to managing COVID-19 as an “endemic” 

As part of new approach, Ulster County will maintain and expand COVID data dashboard to include hospitalization numbers and capacity, and pediatric and booster vaccination rates

Additionally, Ulster County Health Commissioner Dr. Carol Smith said the County will maintain robust testing, vaccination and booster capabilities, and continue to vigilantly monitor the virus

KINGSTON, N.Y. – Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan today discussed the County’s new approach to COVID-19, as the situation shifts from a “pandemic” to an “endemic.” Citing public health progress, such as the 97% drop in active cases in Ulster County since the height of the Omicron surge and the statewide lifting of both the indoor business mask-or-vaccine requirement on February 10th and the mask mandate for schools on March 2nd, County Executive Ryan said the County was moving towards a proactive monitoring mode on COVID-19, which could now be termed endemic. Pandemics are a widespread, rapid spread of disease, with exponentially rising cases over a large area. Endemic viruses, meanwhile, are constantly present and have a fairly predictable spread. That predictability allows health care systems and doctors to prepare and adapt, reducing public health risks and loss of life.

“COVID may still be a part of our lives, but we cannot let it dominate our lives. Through mask wearing, testing, and getting vaccinated, COVID-19 cases in Ulster County have declined 97% since the Omicron surge and the CDC has placed Ulster County in the ‘Low’ COVID-19 Community Level,” County Executive Pat Ryan said. “Ulster County will continue to offer robust testing, we will continue to encourage and provide access to vaccines and boosters, and we will vigorously monitor the public health situation as it changes; but through our diligence we have entered a new phase of COVID-19.” 

“The vaccine is really at the foundation of why we are now in an area of low transmission and our numbers have gone down progressively,”  Ulster County Health Commissioner Dr. Carol Smith said. “In the background, in an endemic, the Health Department will continue to do the necessary surveillance: to watch the positive cases as they come through from laboratories, to monitor for any shifts and changes in the numbers or in terms of genomic testing and whether the DNA of the virus changing – is there a new variant? So we’ll be doing our job in the background, and we may reach out again to ask you to get another booster.”

Since August 3rd, County Executive Pat Ryan has held weekly COVID Facebook briefings to update the public on COVID infection levels and countywide public health measures to keep residents healthy while keeping schools and businesses safely open. Today’s update, his 146th during the pandemic, will mark the end of these weekly updates. However, the County will continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation and adjust operations and public briefings as necessary. In order to maintain public awareness of COVID-19 infection levels and the County’s progress in ensuring public health, Ulster County’s COVID data dashboard has been expanded to include hospitalization numbers and capacity, and pediatric and booster vaccination rates – previously provided through weekly briefings. Ulster County Health Commissioner Dr. Carol Smith, who joined the County Executive at the briefing, reiterated that the County will maintain robust testing, vaccination and boosting capabilities, and continue to be vigilant in monitoring the virus, at large. 

On February 10th, County Executive Ryan announced that he would not be extending the Public Health Emergency order that was originally issued in late November 2021 due to a rapid rise in positivity rates brought on by the emergence of the Omicron variant, as the active case count had drastically dropped.

The newly expanded Ulster County COVID-19 data dashboard is available online at https://covid19.ulstercountyny.gov/dashboard/.  Residents who need help with access can call the Ulster County Recovery Service Center (RSC) at 845-443-8888.