BINGHAMTON, NY – Broome County is about to face its biggest test yet of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Citing the spread of the omicron variant and impending holiday gatherings, County Executive Jason Garnar says public health officials are bracing for a continued surge in cases.

While none of the local Lourdes or UHS hospitals have been forced by the state to suspend elective procedures due to decreased staff capacity, Garnar says they are voluntarily delaying some care in order to free up beds.

“As cases go up, hospitalizations are likely to go up. And, as I’ve said time and time again, that is our biggest concern. Today’s hospitalization report is probably one of the highest we’ve ever received throughout this pandemic over the past twenty plus months,” he said.

Interim Public Health Director Mary McFadden is encouraging residents to keep their holiday gatherings small and among those who have been vaccinated or boosted.

McFadden says if you plan to spend time with people who are not of your immediate family, you should get tested beforehand.

And she continues to stress hand-washing, social distancing and the wearing of masks in indoor public places.

“We thank you for your patience during this time. We really want to encourage everything you can do to stay safe and healthy this holiday season is really in your hands,” she says.

There is some good news.

With the assistance of a dozen National Guard members, Willow Point has been able to take in a handful of residents who were discharged from local hospitals.

Broome vaccination rate has ticked up slightly to 62% fully vaccinated.

And, unlike other communities across the state and nation, there is plenty of testing available locally.

You can find links to make appointments for rapid testing at the county health department and the two-day PCR testing at Davis College by logging on to http://GoBroomeCounty.com/HD/coronavirus.