Fearing setback, county warns of COVID spike

Eleven new COVID-19 cases were reported in Columbia County over the past 10 days. Courtesy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Office

HUDSON — Columbia County health officials reported five new positive COVID-19 cases Tuesday afternoon, the majority of which were young people.

Columbia County Department of Health Director Jack Mabb said one of the five reported is from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and is 28 and another is a man in his 40s who had declined to be vaccinated and had to be hospitalized for respiratory issues Tuesday morning.

Another of the positives is a person in their 30s, another is a person in their 20s who had come from another country to work at a summer camp in the south of the county. Another is 18 and the youngest positive is 5.

“Three out of those five are under 30,” Mabb said. “The guy who ended up at the hospital just decided not to get vaccinated. That’s a snake just waiting in the grass to bite.”

In June the Columbia County Department of Health reported a total of 22 new positive COVID-19 cases. Including the most recent cases the county has had seven new positive cases in July as of Tuesday.

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention report 72.5% of county residents 18 and older have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. In those 12 and older, the number is 70.3%, while those 65 and over have a vaccination rate of 85.9%.

The New York State COVID-19 vaccine tracker shows Columbia County has had 69.7% of its overall population vaccinated, with the state average of 69.8 % vaccinated, Mabb said.

People who are not fully vaccinated are supposed to continue to wear masks in stores, restaurants and other places where they are required, according to the CDC and New York state. This includes most children who are under 12 and not eligible for the vaccine.

“Any private business can enforce their own rules,” Mabb said. “They can make their own rules and some of the businesses are doing it. On the other hand I think this whole thing is like standing on a beach holding out your hand to stop a tsunami, you’re just not going to stop these young people from going without their masks because they’re going to be dishonest about it if they are confronted, and they are just going to go about their business. I think people have just gotten to that point.”

There are concerns about people who are not vaccinated going without masks, and people who are not vaccinated and going about their business as if they are, Mabb said.

“The concerning thing there is what if we do have another outbreak,” said Mabb. “What if we have a variant where the vaccine isn’t effective? A lot of things could happen and I think a lot of people are just going to say, I’m not doing it, I’m not wearing a mask.”

The Department of Health is continuing to hold vaccine clinics on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Mabb said the department is happy with the turnout. He said they have 10 or 12 people each time.

“Our numbers keep creeping up, disproportionate to what we’re doing,” Mabb said. “CDC says we’re over 70% for children 12 to 17, so that means parents are still taking their children to the pharmacy, and hopefully that will go on all summer. I do think that will escalate when school gets closer, depending on what the governor does. And we’re over 72% for the county and I think those numbers will just keep creeping up.”

The Columbia County Department of Health has reported a total of 4,273 positive COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. There are seven active cases and eight county residents in mandatory quarantine. One person was hospitalized because of the virus as of Tuesday afternoon.

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