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When it comes to COVID, is Jefferson County revealing enough?

Published: Oct. 8, 2021 at 5:14 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - A candidate for the Jefferson County legislature claims the county isn’t providing nearly enough information about COVID-19.

That, after the county released its first report earlier this week with some information about hospitalizations, and the number of people vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Matt Gump is running for the District 7 seat now held by John Peck.

Gump says the county’s report this week missed the mark: “I still think the data is very vague. The diagram that’s provided kind of leaves a lot to be desired,” he said.

The report included a chart showing 55 people with COVID had been released from the hospital in September. Of that number, 39 were unvaccinated, 16 were vaccinated.

A portion of Jefferson County's first detailed COVID report, released earlier this week.
A portion of Jefferson County's first detailed COVID report, released earlier this week.(Source: WWNY)

““It doesn’t provide those numbers that are currently hospitalized, instead focusing on the data of those that are discharged. And it doesn’t tell us the vaccination status of the 90 community members who have unfortunately passed away,” Gump said.

Legislature Chair Scott Gray says that’s because a majority of deaths in Jefferson County occurred before the vaccine was widely available. He says that information will come with time.

“Once we get some substantial, if there’s substantial numbers in that category, that is something we can look at reporting,” Gray told 7 News.

Gump also asks, when it comes to reporting daily COVID numbers, why isn’t the county reporting the number of vaccinated versus unvaccinated.

Scott Gray says those are numbers the county can’t provide easily. Why? Fort Drum has been responsible for providing shots to about half the county’s eligible populations, and those records are filed in a federal system the county doesn’t have access to.

“It’s something that we deal with, that say Onondaga, or Oswego doesn’t necessarily deal with,” Gray said.

Gray mentions Onondaga County, because Gump says Onondaga provides lots more COVID data.

“It (Onondaga County’s reporting) also includes the number of COVID cases by zip code, age, race, and gender,” says Gump.

Ok, Gray responds - but providing the information by zip code could have consequences.

“We could possibly risk the working relationship we have with Fort Drum,” he said.

What’s the risk?

Per a Department of Defense policy, Fort Drum doesn’t provide its COVID infection rate to the media. Officials call it a ‘force protection policy.’ But Drum has been providing its daily COVID-19 numbers to the county, which rolls them into the overall daily infection number.

In a statement to 7 News, Drum spokesperson Julie Halpin says, “If Jefferson County wants to explore reporting township by township, we’re open to that discussion, as we’ve been enjoying open dialogue with them since the beginning of the pandemic.”

“It should be information we should have access to,” Gump said.

Gump’s opponent, incumbent John Peck, says it’s not fair to compare Jefferson County’s data to Onondaga County. Onondaga County has more cases and more resources. He adds Public Health is doing its best to give the most accurate data with the information it has.

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