HUDSON — Columbia County is now considered to be at a high-risk level of community transmission for COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.
The CDC recently updated its recommended guidance for fully vaccinated people. It recommends fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission, which now includes Columbia County.
“The designation happened because our numbers are up,” Department of Health Director Jack Mabb said. “We had a pretty busy week last week. We had 11 this morning.”
The Columbia County Department of Health reported nine cases Friday, four on Thursday, four on Wednesday and nine last Tuesday.
A number of other nearby counties are also considered to have reached a substantial level of community transmission, including Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Sullivan, Orange and Schoharie. Last week the CDC classified Greene County at a substantial level of community risk. The current level of community transmission in Greene County has been reduced to moderate by the CDC.
“Positive vaccinated people can still pass the virus on,” Mabb said. “That’s why there is the recommendation to wear the masks. It’s a prudent thing to do at this point.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged local officials and government leaders Monday to impose COVID vaccine mandates and requirements in municipalities across the state’s 62 counties as virus cases spike.
The state’s COVID-related state of emergency, and the governor’s expanded authority, ended June 25 — terminating Cuomo’s ability to enact statewide coronavirus mandates, including laws to wear face masks or vaccine requirements.
“The COVID delta variant has brought much confusion to not just people in the state, but people all across the nation,” the governor said during a COVID-19 briefing in Manhattan on Monday.
Cuomo said the CDC’s new COVID-19 guidelines released last week recommend fully vaccinated people to wear masks indoors, especially in high COVID-19 transmission areas.
“CDC doesn’t mandate, the local governments do it,” Cuomo said. “The state has strongly recommended that local governments do it, but it’s up to the local governments. The only way you overcome the local governments is with a state law, which is what we did last time.”
Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell said he had been in and out of meetings about the topic most of Monday morning. He said the county is going to be putting out a memo to department heads and county employees about the CDC’s recommendation. The memo also includes a link to the CDC’s latest guidelines.
The memo informs county employees of the CDC’s recommendations about mask wearing in areas considered to be a substantial or high level of community transmission.
“Just like the state, we don’t believe we’re in a position to mandate,” Murell said. “Because the CDC isn’t mandating, nor is the state. But we are going to highly recommend it.”
Different health departments in the Capital Region have been meeting to discuss what can be done for school districts, Mabb said.
“I think that we are of the opinion that schools start the year with masks, Mabb said. “We can’t require them to wear masks, we don’t have the authority, but we can strongly recommend they require all students wear masks.”
The CDC’s guidance calls for schools to test once a week if you are in a low-to-moderate region,” Mabb said. “If you are substantial or higher, you test twice a week. Nonetheless, I totally support sports happening in the fall. The guidance also talks about band and choir and other things like that being high-risk because you are singing or breathing out strongly. I totally support it with testing.”
The Columbia County Department of Health, at 325 Columbia St., has decided to institut full mask wearing within the department, Mabb said.
“We are certainly essential, because of that we can’t let it in here,” Mabb said. “For 17 months we kept it out, and we’re going to start wearing masks again. Most of my staff are telling me they already have started wearing masks when they are in stores.”