HUDSON — The number of Twin County COVID cases continues to rise at rates previously unseen during the pandemic.
“Christmas and New Year’s numbers scare me,” said Jack Mabb, director of the Columbia County Department of Health. “New Year’s is one of those holidays where, if a bar closes at 10 o’clock, you’re going to go to a house party. and I think that those are the kind of things that are significant spreaders.”
Both Columbia and Greene counties reported new COVID-19 deaths over the weekend. The Columbia County Department of Health on Saturday reported the 50th COVID-related death in the county since the beginning of the pandemic, an older man who was a resident at a group home in the county. Mabb said he could not disclose the name of the group home because of privacy laws.
Greene County Public Health on Thursday reported there had been four additional COVID-related deaths in the county. Two of the cases had occurred Thursday and the other two were earlier in the month but not confirmed until Dec. 31, according to a statement from the Public Health Department.
The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision reported two inmate deaths at the Coxsackie Correctional Facility on Dec. 30 and Dec. 31, the two inmates had tested positive for COVID-19. These were the first inmate deaths due to the virus at the facility, according to data from the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
In total, Coxsackie Correctional Facility has had 93 positive cases in incarcerated inmates since the beginning of the pandemic, as of Dec. 31.
“Every facet of the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak has been guided by facts, scientific data, and the guidance of public health experts at NYS DOH and the CDC, and the work of DOCCS to protect the safety of New York’s corrections staff and incarcerated population is no different,” said Department of Corrections and Community Supervision spokesman Thomas Mailey in a statement. “DOCCS is currently following all NYS DOH (Department of Health) guidelines regarding congregate settings at each of its facilities. Throughout the pandemic, the Department has worked in consultation with the NYS Department of Health, following facts and science, as the entire incarcerated population was tested for COVID-19. DOCCS is continuing to partner with DOH as part of the New York State COVID-19 Vaccination Program that was previously announced.”
There is also new cluster of positive COVID cases in Hudson Correctional Facility, with at least three or four inmates and two corrections officers testing positive, Mabb said.
“I think this could rival the issue that they had in Greene County a couple of months ago,” Mabb said. “I think it could definitely explode there, so we’re watching that.”
The Columbia County Department of Health reported there have been 1,747 positive COVID cases since the beginning of the pandemic in March. As of Jan. 3, there are 285 active positive cases in the county, 23 residents in the hospital and 346 people in quarantine because of the virus.
Between Dec. 3 and Jan. 3, the Columbia County Department of Health has reported 734 new positive cases, or about 41.4% of all positive cases have occurred since Dec. 3.
The Greene County Public Health Department has reported 1,335 positive coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic. There are 251 active positive cases in the county, 23 county residents hospitalized because of the virus and 541 people in quarantine as of Dec. 31, the most recent data from the Greene County Public Health Department.
The Public Health Department reported 612 new positive COVID cases between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31, or about 45.8% of all positive cases in the county from the beginning of the outbreak.
The increase in positive COVID cases has prompted some local school districts to temporarily switch to remote learning. Germantown Central School District announced its students will be learning remotely until Jan. 15.
“We understand this is a significant change for our students, staff members and parents, but the health and safety of our school community is above all else. This decision was not made lightly,” Germantown Superintendent Benjamin Bragg said in a letter to the district. “We will continue to monitor the number of positive cases in the county as well as surrounding counties. If we see a need to go completely remote after Jan. 15, we will notify you in advance. I ask that our parents prepare for any possible changes that may occur due to quarantines or an increase in positive cases. Be prepared for childcare and have a plan put into place in the event we must extend remote learning.”
In Greene County, Windham-Ashland-Jewett and Catskill Central School District also announced their students would be learning remotely from Jan. 4 until Jan 8.
“Due to the increase in the infection rate, I have made the decision to shift all Catskill CSD schools to fully-remote instruction for the week of Jan. 4-8, 2021,” Catskill Central School District Superintendent Ronel Cook said in a letter to the district. “Again, there will be no in-person hybrid instruction. This will provide the District with additional time to monitor the data and prepare for on-site COVID testing for students and staff.”
Mabb said he met with Columbia County school districts Sunday to discuss the issue of opening for in-person learning after the end of the winter school break.
“There does seem to be a strong feeling among Columbia County superintendents that they want to try to keep going, they want to try to keep schools open,” Mabb said.