COVID infection rates climb locally, mask mandate discussed

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 5:26 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - One north country county’s COVID rates rank among the highest in New York and another’s has been climbing for weeks. With Erie County mandating masks again, that idea has come up in state conversations.

Jefferson County’s COVID-19 infection rate has been climbing week after week.

“If you go back a couple of weeks, we’re in the 7 percent range. Week ago we’re 8. And this week, we’re 9 heading for 10,” said Scott Gray, Jefferson County Board of Legislators chairman.

Those percentages are a 7-day average.

Gray points to people heading indoors for the winter as a reason. He adds getting people vaccinated is part of the county’s solution. The county is looking for state sponsored testing sites too.

“We’ve got to get in front of it and to get in front of it you have to ramp up your testing to a high number,” said Gray.

In Lewis County, COVID rates rival state highs at around 12 percent. County Manager Ryan Piche says to bring that down, it’s all about shots in arms.

“We have a vaccination rate of about 60 percent and our positivity rate is 12 percent. So, they’re a direct function of one another. Vaccination is the key to lead us out of this pandemic,” he said.

On Monday, Erie County brought back indoor mask mandates. Gray says Jefferson County isn’t there yet, but the idea has come up statewide.

“There’s a number of conversations going right now in terms of efforts to mitigate this, which would be limiting capacity indoors, in indoor settings. Masking,” said Gray.

Piche says in Lewis County that call probably has to come from the state.

“I don’t think you’ll see Lewis County act unilaterally on that,” he said.

St. Lawrence County Public Health officials report COVID rates have stayed steady in the 6 percent range. The vaccination rate is on the rise.

“We had a 1 percent increase from last Monday to this Monday,” said Jolene Munger, interim director, St. Lawrence County Public Health.

Still, St. Lawrence health officials want more young adults to get the shot and recommend masks indoors.

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