After reaching a “substantial” level of community transmission of COVID-19 last week, Greene County has moved back down a level to “moderate” transmission as of Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As numbers fluctuate, county officials said there are no plans to impose a countywide mask mandate as Gov. Andrew Cuomo said such authority is left to local governments.
Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said the county isn’t considering a countywide mandate. He said the main goal is to keep the number of hospitalizations down as to minimize the impact on the healthcare system, which consists of one hospital for both Columbia and Greene counties.
“I think No. 1 the vaccine has taken a lot of those (hospitalizations) away,” Linger said.
Linger said no one was hospitalized as of Friday and that the metric of community transmission to determine mask-wearing will be like a “seesaw” as it fluctuates.
The rate of community transmission nationwide remains high with the seven-day positivity rate over 8.9%, according to the CDC.
Linger said the threat continues to be illnesses severe enough to require hospitalization or ventilators, and Groden said local businesses suffered more than they needed to during the first mandate.
“I don’t think we’re going to go backwards. We want people open, we want schools open,” Groden said.
As defined by the World Health Organization, community transmission is evident when large numbers of positive tests cannot be related through a chain of infection. According to the CDC, 50% of the total population of Greene County is fully vaccinated, and nearly 60% of the population age 12 and over who are eligible to receive the vaccine have completed a vaccine series.
Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said it’s not unusual for the county to “yo-yo” in terms of its positivity rate, which is expected to fluctuate, but any downswing in cases should not be taken for granted.
“Just because we go down doesn’t mean people should not consider getting vaccinated if you haven’t already been vaccinated. It’s to your best interest to get vaccinated,” Groden said.
Greene County Public Health announced July 28 that it is asking people to wear a mask in all public indoor settings to help prevent the spread of COVID regardless of their vaccination status after the CDC deemed the county is at “substantial risk” of community transmission, according to a Facebook post.
At the time, the county had the highest rate of community transmission of COVID-19 north of New York City, according to the CDC. The CDC reports Columbia, Albany, Rensselaer, Schoharie, Saratoga and Schenectady counties pose a “substantial risk” of community transmission.
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 masks or vaccine requirements.
Cuomo noted the CDC’s new COVID-19 guidelines the federal agency released last week recommending 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.”