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‘Critical’ COVID situation has Jefferson County eyeing state of emergency

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 3:53 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Jefferson County’s legislature chair says COVID cases are high and hospitals are full in Jefferson County. Could this lead to a county-wide state of emergency?

There are 10 counties in New York currently under a state of emergency because of COVID-19.

Soon, Jefferson County could join them.

“It’s being contemplated. There’s no question about that. We’re not broken, but we’re critical, and so this will be a move that’s more proactive,” said Jefferson County Board of Legislators Chairman Scott Gray.

A state of emergency does two things for a county. It makes it eligible for disaster funding and gives it authority to implement certain COVID mandates.

What would it look like for Jefferson County? Gray stresses it would not mean any lockdowns.

“It’ll allow us to do emergency orders if we have to, but I’m not prepared to say what those will look like yet,” he said.

Franklin County became the tenth county to issue its own state of emergency Thursday night. For county legislature chairman Donald Dabiew, there was a turning point that day that led to the decision.

“The high rise in numbers in one day; 86 people in one day in a county the size of Franklin is a very high number,” he said.

While the emergency does allow Franklin County to issue local emergency orders, it has no intention of issuing any of its own. It does, however, highly recommend all residents get vaccinated, wear masks, wash their hands, and practice social distancing.

There’s also a state-wide state of emergency in place and, starting Friday, any hospital with a bed capacity over 90-percent must cancel elective surgeries.

Currently, all Jefferson County hospitals have bed capacities below 90-percent, with Samaritan Medical Center’s intensive care unit sitting at 71 percent full.

Good news for now, but Gray says the post-holiday surge is yet to come. That’s what a state of emergency would attempt to alleviate.

“All of our hospitals are essentially are risk,” said Gray.

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