CLAYTON, N.Y. (WWNY) - The recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in Jefferson County is connected to Picton Island near Clayton. That’s according to county Legislature Chairman Scott Gray.
In the last 3 days, the county reported 18 new cases of COVID-19. Gray said the cases are linked to gatherings of boaters who tethered together at Picton Island, possibly over the 4th of July weekend. He said “more possible and subsequent locations exist.”
“We have to learn to live with the virus, right? Learning to live with the virus is understanding that there’s risks, understanding that you have to follow the procedures that we’re asking you to follow, which is avoid gatherings,” said Gray. “This is a wake-up call.”
At least 4 businesses have voluntarily closed temporarily. Three of them are restaurants.
Two of the eateries each had an employee test positive for COVID-19; the restaurants were not named.
According to the county, 10 of the new coronavirus cases affect people between the ages of 18 and 25; 3 are in the 26- 50 age range, and 8 of the people are over the age of 50.
Ten men and 8 women tested positive.
The county said the people who tested positive had been in contact with 67 people.
“A multitude of testing still underway; we sent out 600 kits to the River Hospital (in Alexandria Bay),” said Gray in an email.
A joint statement was issued Wednesday by the village, town and Clayton Chamber of Commerce:
"Over the past few days, there has been a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in the Clayton community. Local businesses are being proactive and taking necessary precautions by performing extra sanitizing, temporarily closing, or reducing services. We urge you to continue adhering to the mask mandate, practice social distancing, avoid large gatherings and wash your hands! At the advice of Clayton's Health Officer, if you have questions or concerns, please contact Jefferson County Public Health at (315) 786-3720."
O’Brien’s Restaurant posted the following on its page:
"Due to the alarming rise of Covid cases in the local community we are temporarily closed for today. We feel it is best for our patrons and our employees that we thoroughly sanitize and clean the entire building. We are doing this simply as a precautionary measure to ensure the health and safety for everyone who enters the building.
"We will be open tomorrow at 11am and are encouraging to go orders which can be done curbside for anyone uncomfortable. We will use today to make sure anyone who is entering for in house service has the safest environment possible.
"Anyone without a mask has been and will continue to be denied entry. We also are requiring anyone entering to use the hand sanitizer that has been available at every entry way and bathroom. Please, if you have any concern that you have been around someone who has tested positive or are feeling sick, under the weather, even allergies please stay home for the safety of our patrons and employees.
"Thank you everyone for your understanding and cooperation during this trying time and we apologize for any inconvenience today."
“We decided among ourselves as employees, and me being the boss of O’Brien’s, as a safety precaution thing to first my employees and then to our patrons that come into our restaurant. We’ve had uprising cases within our community and we thought it would be safe to kind of close up for the day. Go through, re-sanitize everything,” said restaurant owner Buffy Golden.
The Wood Boat Brewery also announced on Facebook:
"Due to the rise of Covid cases in our area we are temporarily closed. The health and well being of our customers and our staff are most important to us. We are doing everything we can to ensure everyone stays healthy so we will remain closed until we are certain it is safe to reopen. During this time the restaurant will undergo a deep clean and thorough sanitation."
Gray said the Bassmaster fishing tournament set for later this month is still happening and all steps are being taken to hold the event safely and responsibly.
Watertown Savings Bank also temporarily closed the lobby at its Clayton office.
According to Terri Erdner, WSB's executive vice president of branch administration, said the bank made the decision Tuesday after hearing reports about COVID-19 cases in the Clayton community.
Customers can still use the branch's drive-thru window or online and mobile services.