Four additional COVID deaths reported

Vaccination clinics are scheduled in Columbia County this weekend to administer 300 second doses of the vaccine as the death toll continues to climb. Courtesy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

HUDSON — The Columbia County Department of Health reported four new COVID-19 deaths Wednesday.

The county reported two COVID-related deaths Wednesday afternoon and then learned of two earlier deaths that had not been tallied, bringing the county’s total to 79, Jack Mabb, director of the Columbia County Department of Health, said.

“The nurses were reviewing their records and talking to the nursing homes,” Mabb said. “And we picked up two extra deaths. We’re up to 79. These were people who died at Ghent Rehab and we didn’t find out about them.”

The two deaths occurred during the past two weeks, Mabb said.

“They had gone from the home and to a funeral parlor,” he said. “We were not informed.”

The last four COVID-related deaths have all been residents of Ghent Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, Mabb said. The facility had a total of 15 deaths from the virus over the past few months. Prior to the recent outbreak, the facility did not have any COVID deaths earlier in the pandemic, Mabb noted.

“They really dodged a bullet early on,” Mabb said. “This came into their facility much like it did [The Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing at] Barnwell back in May and June. It really just swept in and it’s really turned into a bad situation.”

Teresa Creedon, corporate administrator for Ghent Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, did not respond to multiple calls for comment Thursday.

Creedon wrote a letter Jan. 13 to residents and family members stating the facility is working with local and state health departments to contact trace individuals who may have been exposed to the virus and visits have been temporarily halted until further notice, among other steps the facility has taken.

“Our Ghent family remains strong and despite continued positive COVID-19 test [sic] occuring we want to let you know that we remain very diligent in stopping the spread of COVID-19,” according to the letter. “It’s been unfortunate that we are feeling the uptick in our county and the surrounding counties at this present moment.”

While residents of nursing homes and assisted-care facilities have been getting the vaccine, they can pass the virus on to other people even after they have received both doses, Mabb said.

“What we know about the science is they can still pass it on and also remember that people can refuse the shot,” he said.

Mabb did not have local numbers with regard to how many nursing home employees have received or refused the vaccine, but he said he has heard that in the Capital region around 39% of workers in nursing homes have been inoculated against the virus.

“If that’s true, that could certainly be accounting for this spread,” Mabb said.

The county reported 29 of its 79 COVID-related deaths, or about 36.7%, in 2021. Over the past week, from Jan. 28 to Feb. 4, there have been 11 COVID-related deaths, or about 13.9% of total deaths during the outbreak.

The Columbia County Department of Health has reported 3,222 positive COVID cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with 45.7% reported over the past month. There are 351 active cases in the county, with 27 residents hospitalized with the virus and four in the intensive care unit. More than 370 county residents are in mandatory quarantine.

Columbia County held a targeted vaccine POD, or point of distribution, Thursday evening, administering 100 doses to grocery store employees.

The county last Saturday administered 110 second doses of the vaccine to residents who received their first dose Jan. 2, Mabb said. The county will administer another 300 second doses of the vaccine this weekend.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses spaced several weeks apart.

Three vaccination PODs are scheduled next week to issue second doses.

“It seems to be definite, at least at this early point in the process, that we’re going to be getting our second shots out as scheduled,” Mabb said.

The county this week received an additional 100 doses of the vaccine to give to people living in group homes. The Department of Health has been told they will receive additional doses for individuals in developmentally disabled group homes for the next four weeks.

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