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Unvaccinated patients stressing local health agencies

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Local health officials are sounding the alarm about the surging COVID cases — even before the holiday season gets underway — urging people to get vaccinated and take precautions.

Glens Falls Hospital currently has 51 COVID-related patients in-house and eight are in the intensive care unit. The vast majority of those hospitalized are unvaccinated.

"Let me be blunt. If you are not vaccinated, get the vaccine immediately. If you are eligible for the booster, get it. Your life, your loved one's lives, and those of your friends and neighbors depend on it," said Dr. Howard Fritz, chief medical officer at Glens Falls Hospital, in a news release.

"As Warren County Public Health appropriately warned, you should assume that any large gathering you attend will expose you to COVID-19, so always wear your mask. Remember, masks reduce your risk of becoming ill, but also your likelihood of making someone else sick if you are infected but not yet aware of the symptoms," Fritz added.

The Emergency Department is seeing more ambulances and walk-in cases than at any time during the pandemic, according to the hospital. Saratoga Hospital, Albany Medical Center and Columbia Memorial are experiencing the same surge.

"If we're having such a surge now before the holiday season gets underway, we're very worried about what the next couple of weeks may show," said Glens Falls Hospital spokesman Ray Agnew.

Agnew said he believes people are letting their guard down — gathering in large groups and not wearing masks.

Glens Falls Hospital has postponed some elective surgeries that require an overnight stay because of the increase in total patients, according to Agnew. In addition, some people have taken time off in the lead up to Thanksgiving.

The hospital has not canceled all elective surgeries and shut everything done like it did last year, Agnew said.

When asked about the vaccine mandate, he said there are still some employees on unpaid administrative leave because they did not get the vaccine. The hospital is managing. To cover gaps in staffing, the hospital has brought on more outside agency help and some people are picking up extra shifts.

Hudson Headwaters Health Network is seeing an average of 80 new COVID patients per day and the vast majority are unvaccinated.

Agnew said that of the 90 patients Hudson Headwaters saw on Monday, 16 were vaccinated. Even though there are breakthrough cases, the vaccine is a very effective tool in saving people's lives, officials say.

Those who haven't gotten the vaccine are much sicker than people who are fully vaccinated, according to Dr. William Borgos, chief medical officer at Hudson Headwaters Health Network.

"As a community, we need to do everything we can to cut off transmission of the virus. We urge everyone to get vaccinated, get a booster dose if you are already vaccinated, and to wear masks in any indoor public setting," he said in a news release.

Dr. Robert Reeves, of Irongate Family Practice, said people are 11 times more likely to die from COVID as an adult if they are not vaccinated.

"I simply can't put it any other way; you owe it to yourself and those you love to get vaccinated," he said.

Michael Goot covers politics, crime and courts, Warren County, education and business. Reach him at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com.

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