WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - In two weeks, the number of COVID-19 cases in the north country has jumped by more than 22 percent.
That’s taking the increases in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties together.
It’s enough for officials to believe this is a “second wave” of the illness, one that’s straining the area’s health system.
“It is clear, that we are seeing numbers that we have not seen in the past," said SCott Gray, chairman of the Jefferson County legislature.
It’s a nearly 21 percent increase in Jefferson County, an 18 percent increase in St. Lawrence County, and a 40 percent increase in Lewis County, where one religious gathering on October 11 has been linked to dozens of cases.
A rise in cases means more contact tracing and more hospitalizations.
Gray said hospitals and public health systems are strained.
“I have been talking to the control room about, we’ve maxed out our contact tracing operation. Nobody right now, no one is escaping this situation. We’re all in it, and we’re all seeing the same issues," he said.
Officials in St. Lawrence and Lewis counties concur - the sharp rise in COVID cases is adding stress.
“We had to gear up to go to 150-percent of capacity as needed," said Dr. Michael Seidman, Chief Medical Director at Claxton-Hepburn Hospital in Ogdensburg.
"We’re not anywhere near capacity yet, though we do have cases. It does put stress on the organization, it puts stress on the employees.”
And in Lewis County, Public Health has recruited from almost all other county departments and three retired public health workers to help with contact tracing and monitoring.
As we head into the holiday season, Gray says he doesn’t see this trend changing any time soon.
“We’re going to become a very vulnerable situation here for at least the next couple of months, and it’s going to be difficult to manage.”