Top ranking officials from across the Hudson Valley united to remind residents that "COVID-19 remains a deadly disease."

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Before Thanksgiving and the start of the winter holiday season, leaders from Dutchess, Orange, Putnam and Ulster counties gathered virtually to ask residents to remain vigilant in the coming weeks and curtail small social gatherings.

“With the holidays soon upon us, accompanied by the traditional get-togethers, we are at a critical moment in the COVID-19 pandemic. Each of us can keep our families, community and region safe. Keeping our gatherings small and putting get togethers on pause are sacrifices we can make to protect our health and the health of those we love. We need to dig deep, summon the compassion and do our part to stay healthy," Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said.

Parties or “hangouts,” even among friends and family members, have led to a recent increase in local COVID-19 cases, raising the Mid-Hudson region’s positivity rate, affecting the ability of schools and businesses to remain open and further stressing the region’s healthcare resources, officials say.

Officials added that while many residents assume COVID-19 cases are on the rise due to exposures at workplaces, schools and businesses the Mid-Hudson region has seen a surge in cases resulting from gatherings in casual settings such as homes, where many residents have become lax about adhering to proper safety guidelines – proper mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing – and one infected individual can expose many more.

“We know that this is a make or break moment for us as a county and a community,” Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said. “As we see our numbers increase to levels that we have not seen in months, we must remain proactive to blunt a much more significant second wave. We will be doing everything that we can to remind residents to continue to social distance, wear masks, and take all precautions necessary.”

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus said in the past week, two COVID-19 deaths in his county were residents in their 20s, proving the virus can affect every individual differently, regardless of age or underlying condition.

“Thanksgiving and other holidays are usually a wonderful opportunity to get together with our loved ones, but we must remain vigilant against the spread of the virus as we continue to see an uptick in cases. Out of an abundance of caution, please avoid large family gatherings this Thanksgiving, and celebrate with those within your immediate household. Our future success in getting safely through this pandemic depends greatly on the precautions that you take today.” Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus said.

With the broad roll-out of a COVID-19 vaccine still months away, the region’s leaders implored residents to keep their gatherings small, preferably to immediate members of their household, and continue to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines whenever people are interacting with others beyond their immediate household.

“We have been battling this pandemic for eight months, and we don’t want our best efforts to go to waste. COVID-19 remains a deadly disease, and we must not become complacent and casual in our efforts to fight it. Even when you gather among your immediate family, please wear a mask, wash your hands and remain at a safe distance. The pandemic doesn’t let up for the holidays – neither can we,” Molinaro concluded.

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