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County officials prepare as COVID cases climb

Published: Nov. 28, 2021 at 5:49 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - This week, COVID cases continued to rise in the North Country and across New York. And Governor Kathy Hochul has taken steps to combat one of the newest variants of the virus.

State data shows Jefferson County’s 7-day average positivity rate was up to 11.7% on Friday. That number is 13.8% in Lewis county and 7.2% in St. Lawrence County. The state’s 7-day average is 4.7%. As COVID cases rise in the state, Jefferson County is no different.

“Our positivity rate is certainly climbing,” said Jefferson County Legislature Chairman Scott Gray.

On Friday, Governor Hochul declared a State of Emergency. The move was made to combat the new Omicron COVID variant, originating in southern Africa.

It will go into effect December 3rd and allow the state to acquire pandemic-fighting supplies, increase hospital capacity, and address potential staffing shortages. It’s unclear if the state will enforce any mask mandates, but Gray says it’s being considered.

“There’s a number of conversations going on right now in terms of efforts to mitigate this, which would be limiting capacity, indoors - in indoor settings, masking, things like that. We just - we have to get in front of this, sooner rather than later,” said Gray.

State Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush wants to pump the breaks on potential mask mandates. He wants to see more data in county’s COVID reportings first.

“If we’re reporting, say 80 new cases of COVID, testing positive across the north country, how many of those cases, how many of those people are not vaccinated compared to those who are vaccinated?” said Blankenbush.

Blankenbush says that could give us a better idea of the vaccine’s efficacy, and could convince people on the fence to get vaccinated.

Lewis County officials say that’s the solution to slowing any spread.

“Vaccination is the key to lead us out of this pandemic,” said Ryan Piche, Lewis County Manager.

Gray says in Jefferson County, more testing is also needed to help stop COVID from affecting society. He points to South Jefferson Central School District, which went remote this past Tuesday, due to the virus’s impact on staffing.

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