3 new COVID deaths confirmed

Two days before the state’s mask mandate is lifted for fully vaccinated individuals, two additional COVID deaths were reported in Greene County and a third was reported the next day. Courtesy of Tribune News Service

On the same day Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state’s mask mandate to fight the spread of COVID-19 will be lifted for fully vaccinated individuals in most settings, two additional COVID-19 deaths were reported in Greene County. A third death was reported Tuesday.

All three had underlying health conditions.

“We had a death on the 14th, a woman in her 50s with comorbidities,” Deputy Director of Public Health Laura Churchill said Tuesday. “On the 15th it was a male in his 60s, also with comorbidities. Today we have another death, a female in her 70s, with comorbidities.”

The deaths bring the county’s total number of reported virus fatalities to 73. The county has 46 active COVID-19 cases, with five new cases reported between Saturday and Monday, according to the department.

Columbia Memorial Health spokesman Bill Van Slyke declined to say whether any patients at the hospital have recently died from the virus.

“Given the sensitivities of patient confidentiality, we don’t share this information publicly,” Van Slyke said Tuesday.

Prior to Monday’s announcement from the county’s Public Health department, the last COVID death in the county was reported May 3, and prior to that there had not been a virus-related death since April 6.

The recent spate of deaths is a reminder for county residents to get vaccinated to stop the spread of the virus, Churchill said.

“It underscores the need to continue to get vaccinated,” Churchill said. “There are plenty of vaccinations available. If this inspires you to get a vaccine, please do so because it protects the most vulnerable among us.”

Two of the most recent deaths were reported the same day the governor announced the mask mandate would be lifted beginning Wednesday for people who have completed their vaccine series — two weeks after being administered one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and two doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer inoculations.

Masks will still be required in some settings, including pre-K to 12th-grade schools, public transportation, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes and health care settings.

“New Yorkers have worked hard over the last year to prevent the spread of COVID and keep each other safe,” Cuomo said Monday. “That work has paid off and we are ecstatic to take this next step in the reopening of our beautiful state.”

A spokesperson from Greene County Public Health could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, was aware of the deaths but did not know specifics about the individuals. He said he does not think the mask mandate is being lifted too soon.

“I think when the state, as a whole, is at a point of very low demand for vaccinations, I think there needs to be an incentive for people to want to go out and get vaccinated,” Linger said. “If you get vaccinated and there is no benefit of being out and about without a mask, why would someone change their mind and get vaccinated? I think it would help in increasing that vaccination percentage.”

In Greene County, 54.7% of residents ages 18 and over have received at least one vaccine dose and 46.5% have been fully vaccinated, according to the New York State Vaccine Tracker. Of the 47,491 county residents, 18,778 have completed the inoculation series.

The town of Catskill has the highest number of active positive cases of the virus at 19, as of Monday, according to the Public Health department. Greenville has the second-highest number of positives at 14, Cairo has 13 and Athens has 12. All other towns in the county have fewer than 10 positive cases, with Halcott, Hunter, Jewett, Lexington, New Baltimore and Preston Hollow reporting no positive cases of the virus as of Monday.

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