HUDSON — The Department of Health is warning about potential COVID exposure at Planet Fitness and at a funeral held in Ghent.
In Greene County, the county’s Emergency Operations Center was activated Monday in response to rising COVID infections.
The Columbia County Department of Health announced Monday a staff member at Planet Fitness tested positive for COVID-19, and a person who was in attendance at a private home in Ghent and the subsequent funeral and celebration of life also tested positive.
The Department of Health is urging anyone who was at Planet Fitness in Hudson on Dec. 5, 6 or 7, to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19, and contact their doctor if they show any signs of having the virus.
The Department of Health also reported there had been at least one positive COVID case stemming from a Dec. 6 wake held at a private home in Ghent. The person who tested positive was also in attendance at a Dec. 9 funeral and celebration of life ceremony at a private residence. Anyone who was at these events is being asked by the department to monitor themselves and contact their doctor if they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19.
“This is a good example of the kind of pushback and resistance that investigators and contact tracers with every health department across the state face as they try to slow the spread of the virus in the community,” Columbia County Health Department Director Jack Mabb said Monday.
Mabb said he is concerned about the potential spread that could be caused from the wake and funeral because of the number of people said to be in attendance.
The governor’s executive order allows for no more than 10 people to gather in a private residence and no more than 50 at a public location, Mabb said. The host of the wake reported there had been about 10 people in attendance at the viewing, but that an individual who was in attendance contacted the Department of Health to report there had been more than 100 people in attendance, Mabb added.
“People aren’t being forthcoming,” Mabb said. “They don’t want to give us information on their contacts because they don’t want their friends to end up inconvenienced by being quarantined and that is how we get rising numbers of positives in the community.”
Another issue that has been seen in the reporting of COVID-19 cases is in employers who have had issue with employees who contact the health department to report they are positive. Mabb said there have been at least two instances of employees who were given a hard time from co-workers and management for reporting they had tested positive. Because they may have exposed their co-workers to COVID this can result in other employees needing to quarantine or be tested.
“The trend now is to see people resistant to Health Department COVID-19 involvement. That only helps to allow for the virus to spread,” Mabb said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo enacted a series of requirements for workers’ safety because of COVID-19 earlier this year. Employers must ensure health and safety precautions if employees are going to be working on site. Employers are required to ensure that proper social distancing and mask wearing are being followed. Employers must also make sure there are handwashing and sanitizing stations available for employees and that proper cleaning and disinfecting occur frequently.
The Department of Labor also requires employers not to threaten or retaliate against employees for complaining that the business should not be operating or has failed to take adequate safety and health measures.
A New York City resident was given the first dose of a COVID vaccine on Monday. Mabb said the health department has been preparing for vaccine distribution with its drive-thru clinics. He expects the vaccine will be distributed to those getting the vaccine first, including first responders. Those living in nursing homes and adult-care facilities will be among the first to receive the vaccine. He expects the vaccine to be made available to the general public by the middle of spring, but he has not heard anything from the state Health Department about an exact date of when Columbia County will be receiving the vaccine.
Columbia County announced Friday it would once again renew its state of emergency declaration due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The state of emergency is in effect until at least Jan. 11, unless it is rescinded or otherwise modified.
The Greene County Emergency Operations Center was activated Monday due to the expected rise in positive COVID cases from the New York state Department of Health.
The Operations Center provides resources, coordinates a disaster response and distributes important material. It will also help disperse information from Greene County Public Health. The Emergency Operations Center will be handling general COVID inquiries such as non-medical questions, travel restrictions, isolation and quarantine rules.
The county has seen an uptick in positive COVID-19 cases over the last month. New York state public health officials have predicted another spike before the upcoming holiday season due to a lack of compliance over the Thanksgiving holiday.
The Greene County Public Health Department has reported 854 positive COVID cases since the beginning of the pandemic. The county currently has 83 active cases, nine people are hospitalized because of the virus, and there are 336 people in quarantine.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Columbia County Department of Health has reported a total of 1,162 positive COVID cases. There are 96 active cases in Columbia County. Mabb said the county hit a new record high number of new cases for the day on Sunday with 24. The Department of Health reported 10 people hospitalized due to COVID-19 and none of those hospitalizations are people who live in nursing homes or assisted-care facilities. All of the hospitalized cases are a result of community spread, Mabb said. There are 427 people in mandatory quarantine.
“It’s definitely in the community, it’s definitely widespread and it’s only going to get worse as we head further into the holidays because people are going to gather,” Mabb said.