Virus spikes as holiday nears

COVID-19 cases have been on the rise in the Twin Counties this fall.

COVID-19 cases in the incarcerated population are on the rise in Greene County as Columbia County battles an outbreak at an assisted-living facility.

A large number of Columbia County’s positive cases have come from nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, The Grand at Barnwell has had 144 positive cases, Ghent Assisted Living 46, Livingston Hills Nursing Home six and Pine Haven Nursing Home 51 positive cases. In all, the cases at these facilities account for 33.1% of the cases the county has had.

In Columbia County, there have been 768 total positive COVID cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

Columbia County Department of Health Director Jack Mabb is urging residents to be smart about the holiday gatherings they attend this year.

“Think it through,” Mabb said in a statement. “If you’re invited to a gathering of 20 or 30 people and everyone’s inside and not socially distancing, consider not going. Or consider an alternative where the same number of people attend but come in shifts throughout the day.”

Over the past week the total number of COVID cases in the county has increased by 69.

As of Sunday evening, there were 103 active cases in Columbia County. This is the highest number of active cases the county has seen since its peak of 115 in June.

Twenty-four people are hospitalized with COVID and two of those are in the intensive-care unit. In all, 43 people in the county have died from COVID-19. Over the past month, six residents at Ghent Assisted Living died because of COVID.

Prior to those deaths, the county did not have any COVID-related deaths since June.

Columbia County has 366 people in mandatory quarantine.

“Looking ahead, I think people will get together with their friends and relatives at Thanksgiving,” Mabb said. “As hard as we might try, we won’t be able to stop some people from getting together in an unsafe way.”

The best way to protect yourself and others this holiday season is to stay home, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC recommends low-risk activities such as having Thanksgiving dinner with the people who live in your household and meeting up virtually with other family members and friends.

The CDC is also discouraging high-risk activities this year such as Black Friday shopping trips in crowded stores or malls and attending large family gatherings where it can be difficult to maintain social distancing.

The Hudson City School District last week reported a seventh-grade student tested positive for COVID-19.

Seventh-graders have been learning remotely since then because of the number of staff required to quarantine. They will return to in-person classes Thursday.

The district announced Monday a central office staff member also tested positive for COVID-19 and is asymptomatic. The district said the person had not been exposed to students or teachers.

The district has been working with the Department of Health to conduct contact tracing, according to a letter from the district to the families. They have been in contact with anyone who is required to quarantine.

Ichabod Crane Central School District on Sunday informed district families that a middle-school student tested positive for the virus. The student had not been in school since Nov. 2, and everyone required to quarantine has been notified.

The Columbia County Department of Health is holding COVID testing clinics at the former John L. Edwards Primary School in Hudson on Nov. 10, Nov. 17 and Dec. 1, from 9-11 a.m. Preregistration is not required to attend the clinic. A photo ID is required for a test and a mask is required to enter the testing site. Each testing day is limited to 100 tests.


Inmate cases at Greene Correctional Facility in Coxsackie jumped from one on Nov. 5, to 24 on Nov. 6, according to Greene County Public Health.

Inmate infections accounted for 51% of the cases Friday. With a total of 160 inmate cases to date, the medium-security prison has the second-highest number of cases among state correctional facilities.

“Last week an incarcerated individual tested positive for COVID-19,” state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision spokesman Thomas Mailey said. “Through contact tracing, additional individuals were quarantined and tested, resulting in the additional positive cases. The department continues to monitor the population, offer rapid testing to staff, and visitation and programs continue to be suspended as well as movement in or out of the facility.”

DOCCS conducted mass testing for inmates at Greene Correctional. The facility has 61 inmate cases, 993 negative results, 99 individuals recovered and three tests pending, Mailey said.

In terms of staff testing, 97 correctional employees were tested by Greene County Public Health in October and 288 employees took rapid tests made available by DOCCS, Mailey said, adding that testing yielded no additional positives.

Prior to offering rapid tests, employees who wished to be tested or who were identified as part of a contact trace were referred to a state testing site or their primary-care doctor.

Visitation at the facility was suspended Oct. 21, following outcry from county officials and the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association.

The county also requested testing for correctional staff, better access to contact-tracing information and mandatory testing of inmates prior to release.

“We have a lot of promises verbally, but we didn’t get anything in writing from them,” Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said Monday. “The results are pretty obvious. Apparently, they’re not following their own protocols.”

Linger did not identify any specific protocols he believed the facility violated.

“As far as their operations, we haven’t had the authority to find out if they have an adequate reopening plan, if they are following those things,” Linger said. “We don’t have the ability to check on that.”

Greene County’s involvement with the prison cases is limited to correctional employees that are Greene County residents, Linger said.

“We will continue to push it and do our job contact tracing on staff,” he said. “We have only so much control here.”

Inmates who test positive are isolated for a minimum of 14 days until their symptoms are gone and the individual has had no fever for 72 hours without the aid of medicine, Mailey said.

In addition to wearing masks, employees are also required to complete health questionnaires. DOCCS has sought to reduce staff density by offering telecommuting, compressed work weeks, alternate work weeks and staggered shifts, when applicable.

The outbreak at Greene Correctional was linked to a fifth-grade student at Greenville Central School and to a Columbia County nursing home.

Greenville Central School has reported five total cases; Catskill and Hunter-Tannersville have each reported one case. Two of the county’s cases are hospitalized and 19 residents to date have died from the virus. About 130 people are on quarantine.

Greene County offers weekly clinics every Wednesday from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at the Greene County Office Building, 411 Main St., Catskill.

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