Virus bump worries officials

Twin County officials are keeping a close eye on the number of coronavirus cases in the area. Courtesy of CDC

A bump in cases of COVID-19 in Greene and Columbia counties has health officials concerned.

The number of coronavirus cases has risen slightly in both counties in the weeks since the Fourth of July holiday, with Greene County reporting eight active cases as of Monday and Columbia County reporting 12 active cases as of Monday.

But it does not appear that the Fourth of July holiday weekend led to a large spike in new cases, Columbia County Director of Public Health Jack Mabb said Friday.

After dropping as low as one active case June 25, Greene County’s tally crept up at the beginning of July, jumping from six to nine active cases on July 14, according to the county’s health department.

Greene County Public Health Director Kimberly Kaplan did not return multiple calls for comment Monday.

Columbia County has seen a small spike in positive cases that have been traced to the Kinderhook and Valatie area.

The Kinderhook-area cases may have originated among nursing home workers, many of whom reside in the northern part of the county, Mabb told the Columbia County Board of Supervisors Health and Human Services Committee at its July meeting.

One person known to be a Barnwell employee was part of the string of new positives, but the spike was well contained and has died down, Mabb said.

Mabb urged caution, despite the relatively low number of new cases.

“When it comes to COVID, all we need is one super-spreader and all of a sudden we are right back in it again,” he said. “We are waiting to exhale on that. We know it is coming.”

Mabb pointed to Rensselaer County as an example of how quickly numbers can change. Rensselaer County saw its cases spike with an outbreak at Riverside Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, with one facility accounting for nearly half the county’s now 73 active cases.

While most active cases of COVID-19 in the Twin Counties are being managed at home, three Greene County residents and nine Columbia County residents are in the hospital battling COVID-19, according to the county health department websites.

Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said expanded testing has led to the discovery of cases that might otherwise not have been diagnosed.

“The county is in pretty decent shape. We do have a bit of a surge right now, but there are requirements for businesses that are opening up to test on a regular basis — some have to test every two weeks, and nursing homes have to test weekly — so we are finding cases from people who might not otherwise have been tested,” Linger said Monday. “We are finding these cases, doing contact tracing and quarantining people who need to be quarantined.”

Forty-three people are quarantined in Greene County and 35 people in Columbia County are on precautionary and mandatory quarantine.

The travel advisory put into effect by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, requiring quarantine for travelers from states with high transmission rates of the virus, has also led to increased testing, Linger said.

But Mabb warned that the governor’s order may not be working, as a high percentage of people who travel to hot-spot states are not following the state’s quarantine advisory.

Preliminary data from the state show that 20% to 30% of returning travelers are complying with the two-week quarantine, Mabb said.

Both counties are continuing to offer COVID-19 testing regularly.

Greene County offers testing at the county office building in Catskill every Wednesday from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Tests are available to anyone who wants to take one.

Columbia County is giving tests at a mobile clinic on the sidewalk in front of John L. Edwards School in Hudson on Tuesdays, with tests limited to 50 people per day.

Greene County’s number of cases has remained relatively stable compared to other counties in the Capital Region that have seen their numbers rising, Linger said.

“There are no outbreaks [in Greene County], but cases are popping up one by one,” Linger said. “Even with weekly testing we are doing at the county offices, we are finding one or two cases, but it is relatively minor compared to other places in New York state.”

Other counties in the region have seen cases and community transmission from travelers coming in to Albany International Airport and other area travel hubs, Linger said.

Greene County Public Health has been working seven days a week to meet state reporting mandates, Linger said.

“The department has a requirement from the state to do daily reporting, so someone is coming in every day of the week, checking the test numbers, and doing contact tracing for any cases that are reported,” he said.

Linger urged county residents to continue following health department guidelines to remain virus-free.

“People need to stay diligent,” Linger said. “It is difficult right now and we know that, but people have to stay diligent and make sure they don’t put not only our residents in danger of contracting the virus, but when they are at local businesses we don’t want our businesses to be in violation of the state orders as well. This is not the businesses’ fault — just please follow the guidelines they are required to adhere to.”

Mabb said most people are doing a good job complying with safety regulations.

“We need to keep at it,” he said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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