HUDSON — As Columbia Memorial Health prepares for an anticipated surge in COVID-19 cases, local officials are warning that the worst may be yet to come.
“We haven’t reached anywhere near the peak of the COVID-19 cases we expect in the county,” Columbia County Department of Health Director Jack Mabb said in a statement on Tuesday.
Columbia County has 24 confirmed cases of COVID-19, officials confirmed.
Nine county residents are suspected of having COVID-19, but have not been tested, including one person who traveled to a high-risk area downstate.
“Number 20 might be the first one that is travel-related,” Mabb said.
Greene County has nine positive cases, including one person who has been hospitalized, according to the Greene County Public Health website.
Greene County Public Health did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
To comply with a state mandate, the Columbia County Department of Health has identified private residences in Kinderhook and Austerlitz to house individuals who have tested positive or been exposed, and cannot quarantine at home, the county confirmed in a statement.
Reasons for being unable to remain at home include lack of space and lack of multiple bathrooms, Mabb said.
No one is currently occupying the residence in Austerlitz, said Columbia County of Board Supervisors Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Robert Lagonia, who is also the Austerlitz town supervisor.
“If a property is going to be used to house quarantined persons, the county will notify local neighboring residents and the town, city or village,” he said.
The two quarantine residences are a proactive measure to contain the virus, Director of Emergency Management David W. Harrison Jr. said in a statement Wednesday. “It is important that county residents not panic and understand that this is for the betterment of everyone.”
“The vast majority of people are quarantining at home, separate from their family, for example if the house has two bathrooms and they are taking shifts in the kitchen,” Mabb said.
To comply with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s goal of doubling hospital capacity, CMH is taking steps to free up space for extra beds by postponing elective surgeries and putting two beds in formerly single-patient rooms, Columbia Memorial Health spokesman William Van Slyke said.
In addition, areas of the hospital not being used for in-patient care are being prepared to have in-patient beds, he said.
Additional hospital beds have been rented, CMH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Clifford Belden said on Tuesday at a press conference at Albany Medical Center. “We have the physical beds actually being delivered this week,” he said.
The hospital is on track to meet the governor’s goal of increasing capacity by 100%, Belden said, noting that locating supplies may become the bigger issue.
Testing for COVID-19 at CMH is now reserved only for medical personnel and first responders.
The hospital received more COVID-19 testing kits this week, said Lagonia, who could not provide the exact number of kits.
“The lack of testing kits is hamstringing public health officials and medical providers who rely on accurate information,” Mabb said.
Columbia County’s testing kit shortage comes as officials call for increased testing.
“If you listen to the governor and the president, they are saying test, test, test,” Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell said.
“If we are not able to test, then we are not going to know the prevalence in the community, and we won’t be able to isolate them,” Mabb said. “The more positive people we identify, the more we can shut down the virus’s movement in the community.
Testing for COVID-19 requires collecting a respiratory specimen, according to the Centers for Disease Control website. Two types of swabs are needed, in addition to reagent, Mabb said. A reagent contains the enzymes and other components needed to detect the virus, according to the CDC.
The supply chain for swabs and reagent materials has become overwhelmed by demand, Mabb said.