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Coronavirus spike in 1 of 7 north country counties could keep entire region closed

Updated: May. 5, 2020 at 5:39 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - As regions begin to look at reopening, there's some concern. The north country is made up of 7 counties and a spike of COVID-19 in one could halt progress for all.

The way we view the north country isn't exactly how the state sees it.

We look at the tri-county area, but the region stretches 7 counties all the way to Plattsburgh.

An increase in COVID-19 in one could stop the reopening in its tracks.

"It's a concern, the fact that we've operated so well and we don't want a drag on us," said Jefferson County Board of Legislators Chair Scott Gray.

On Monday, the state announced criteria regions have to meet to start reopening.

It includes a decrease in COVID patients being admitted to hospitals; fewer than 2 patients per 100,000 residents in a region per day can be admitted to qualify.

That's around 9 in the north country.

"Let's say for instance they have 9 in Clinton County, God forbid. Does that mean you shut down the whole northern New York because of that," asked Joe Lightfoot, St. Lawrence Board of Legislators chair.

Gray believes that is the case.

"If there's a spike in one area, then the whole region is affected," he said.

Lewis County Manager Ryan Piche says the approach makes sense to stop people in a closed county from traveling to an open one.

"Other counties having problems, and Lewis County still being open, encourages that movement of people," he said.

The state is also requiring regions to test 30 people per 1,000 residents.

"The totality of it is just under 13,000 tests for the entire 7 county region," said Gray.

And that's per month.

Gray says the increase in volume could shock the system.

"It's going to be a stress on the kits, getting the testing kits. It's going to be a stress on the administering of the test. And then it's going to be a stress on the labs that you're sending the test to," he said.

How the nearly 13,000 tests are divided up isn't set in stone.

Piche says for now his approach is to test the appropriate population of his county.

"Lewis County has 27,000 People. So, you take 27 times 30, you get 810," he said.

Gray says Jefferson County is looking at testing numbers more at the regional than the county level.

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