No panic in midst of pandemic

Mohawk Valley shows steady signs of improvement while battling COVID-19

By Daniel Baldwin

The United States is still feeling the aftershocks of the COVID-19 global pandemic, and the Mohawk Valley is slowly but surely trying to regain a sense of normalcy.

People are still following the virus guidelines of wearing their masks in stores, staying 6 feet away from other people, washing their hands, and staying home as much as possible.

The Mohawk Valley experienced a growth in coronavirus cases in August. Oneida and Herkimer County, who at one time had less than 50 cases in March, came out of the month of August with more than 2,400 cases combined, according to WKTV.

Although the valley experienced a growth of cases, working environments at local hospitals and medical facilities are less hectic now than they were March.

MVHS Chief Physician Executive Kent Hall said that 25% to 33% of patients that were at the MVHS hospitals and facilities in March and April were either COVID-19 positive or under investigation.  As of July, the number of COVID-19 patients significantly dropped to 8 percent.

“From a COVID-19 standpoint, we’re doing better,” Hall said. “We still have gotten some intermediate spikes.”

The Oneida County Health Department provides health services and programs to Mohawk Valley and Oneida County residents going through any health-related issues, according to its website It also has COVID-19 hotline (315-798-5431) for people who want to report a case or find out if they are infected with the coronavirus. Although Phyllis D. Ellis, director of health at the Oneida County Health Department, said the department received fewer phone calls from both its hotline and the main line during the summer when compared to March.

“The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Oneida County has been fairly consistent since March,” Ellis said.  “Phone calls from the public have decreased since the beginning. In March, we fielded over 3,000 phone calls from the public.”

Part of the reason for the decrease ofCOVID-19 patients and cases at local hospitals and areas, according to Hall, is based on the amount of people following virus guidelines and taking this pandemic seriously.

Hall said he has seen more Mohawk Valley residents wearing masks, social distancing, and washing their hands.

“We’ve done it well and smart,” Hall said. “The community said, ‘we’re taking this seriously. We understand that it’s a burden for us to wear masks and not have venues open, but that’s a burden that we are willing to bear because it’s the right thing to do for our community.’ They’ve done an outstanding job, and I’m really proud to be a citizen of the Mohawk Valley.

“There are always going to be some people that don’t follow recommendations, but in general, I think a high percentage of the population that is doing that is really why we are where we are.”

Good for community

Hall also said wearing a mask, keeping your hands clean, socially distancing and staying home can not only prevent one person from getting the virus, but it can also prevent others from getting it and help keep the case rate low in any sort of area.

“There was a consistent message that was coming out of Albany,” Hall said. “And that was, ‘This is what we need to do as citizens of this state in order to protect our population and make our population as healthy as possible,’ and I think that the folks in the Mohawk Valley took that to heart and understood that as citizens this was something that was important in order to protect other citizens.

“When you wear a mask it protects you, but much more importantly is that it protects other people.  People have recognized that this is actually something that they as individuals can do to help contribute to the greater good of the population in order to keep the spread of this virus down.”

It is also important to note that a majority of restaurants throughout the Mohawk Valley already reopened their dining halls. Local hair salons and Sangertown Mall in New Hartford also reopened.

“The Mohawk Valley was the first region to begin reopening,” Ellis said. “Our region has consistently entered each new phase on time under the requirements issued by the governor.”

While businesses and restaurants in other states tried to reopen but failed to follow health protocols and had to close down again, Hall said the valley has been on a steady upward climb in terms of reopening and had no setbacks.

Despite health and business improvements throughout the Mohawk Valley, businesses and health organizations in this area are still on high alert and preparing for the fall and winter season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is the most common time for people to catch a cold or get the flu.

Hall said MVHS partnered with the Oneida County Health Department, Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees, and local colleges in an effort to prepare for the fall season and continue to keep local residents safe and healthy during the pandemic.

“We work as an engine to really ask, ‘How can we look to at future at what might be happening, and how do we plan for that?’” Hall said. “So I think partnering with local colleges ensures we are prepared as students are now on campus. We partner with the refugee center to make sure that its population is taken care of.”