HUDSON — Columbia County is imposing a mask requirement starting Monday.
All county employees and visitors will be required to wear a mask or face-covering indoors at all county buildings when in direct contact with customers or members of the public when it is not possible to maintain social distance.
Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell, R-Stockport, and Columbia County Department of Health Director Jack Mabb sent a joint memo to county employees Thursday afternoon informing them of the mask requirement, which will apply to all vaccinated and unvaccinated employees and visitors to county buildings.
“As you may be aware, Columbia County and New York state are experiencing a rise in cases of COVID-19 and the COVID variants,” according to the memo. “Due to this, we will be taking every precaution to comply with New York state and federal guidelines regarding face-coverings in the Columbia County workplace.”
Signs informing people entering county buildings of the requirement will be posted, Murell said.
The mask requirement will be in place when the level of community transmission for Columbia County is considered to be either substantial or high by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Friday morning, Columbia County continues to have a high level of community transmission.
All counties in New York are considered to be at a substantial or a high level, with the exception of Clinton County in northern New York, which is at a moderate level.
“Basically, this came about as a result of a conversation on the chairman’s call,” Mabb said. “My position has to be as a public health director, that it’s a prudent step to take right now when our numbers are high and there’s a lot of transmission in the community. There wasn’t really opposition among those folks on the chairman’s call.”
The CDC’s community transmission map reports as of Friday morning 92.36% of all counties in the US are at a high level of community transmission.
The memo to county employees stated when the county is considered by the CDC to be at a moderate or low level of community transmission unvaccinated employees and visitors are required to wear a mask indoors when they are in direct contact with customers or members of the public and when they are unable to maintain social distancing. Vaccinated employees may wear a mask when the county is at a low or moderate level if they choose to.
Mabb said as of about a week ago about 50% of counties in the state implemented a similar mask requirement.
Columbia’s mask decision grew out of an increase in the number of new cases reported in the county. The week of July 31 to Aug. 6 the county had 41 new cases. The week of Aug. 7 to Aug. 13 the county had 50 new cases. The week of Aug. 14 to Aug. 20 the county had 63 new cases. As of mid-day Friday, the week of Aug. 21 to Aug. 27 the county had 85 new cases.
Columbia County has also seen a growing number COVID-related hospitalizations in recent weeks. Ten county residents were hospitalized earlier this week because of COVID. Two are in the intensive care unit. One of the 10 hospitalizations was an individual who was vaccinated, the other nine — including both people in the intensive care unit — were not vaccinated. The one vaccinated hospitalization was an individual who was older and had comorbidities, Mabb said.
About 25% of the positive cases in the county are breakthrough infections, Mabb said. This means they are positive cases found in people who are fully vaccinated.
The county’s memo cites New York state Health Regulations and the CDC guidance. The CDC recommends everyone, regardless of their vaccination status wear masks in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission based on emerging evidence on the delta variant. Fully vaccinated people may consider wearing a mask in public indoor settings regardless of transmission level if someone in their household is immunocompromised or is at increased risk for severe disease, or if someone in their household is unvaccinated, which includes people who are younger than 12 who are not eligible to be vaccinated, according to the CDC.
The Columbia County Department of Health will hold a vaccination pod Sept. 15 at the county fairgrounds in the Fair Building from 4-7 p.m., Mabb said.