COVID testing site reopens as Jefferson County sees jump in cases

Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 5:08 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - The worst of COVID is happening now for Jefferson County. We haven’t seen daily cases reach the levels were seeing now ever before. And threats to local hospitals have not been more worrisome to county leaders than right now.

Samaritan Medical Center reopened a state-sponsored COVID testing site Monday after a four-month hiatus. A step in the right direction, but also a sign of the times.

“If history tells us where we’re headed, then we have cause for concern,” said Scott Gray, Jefferson County Legislature chairman. “If we don’t identify the virus, then we can’t do anything with it. It just continues to spread out of control.”

Jefferson County is seeing some of its highest case numbers since the pandemic began.

On January 14, 2021, there were 144 new cases.

On November 30, 2021, just last week, there were 165 new cases.

If that trend continues, the county could exceed its peak numbers from this past January.

“We cannot withstand a rapid increase like we had last year. Our hospitalizations would be, we’d be underwater at that point,” said Gray.

But that rapid increase is possible. With a few more days to go until what could be a post-holiday surge, state data shows north country hospitals remain at around 80 percent full. Canton-Potsdam’s intensive care unit is at 100 percent.

“We are trying to avert that situation as best we can. We are looking at the numbers, we will have another call at 2 o’clock with the seven counties in our region because what is pending is not a pretty picture,” said Gray.

On Monday, Jefferson County released even more data - a closer look into where COVID is most prevalent. Thousand Islands Central School District joined the city of Watertown, Carthage and West Carthage in showing high amounts of the virus traced through its wastewater.

It comes as all three celebrated the holidays this past week with community gatherings.

Gray says he won’t tell people to stop living, but do be mindful - especially of their indoor holiday festivities.

“We can say anything we want to, whatever orders we want to put in place, if the community is not with us, we will see things that will not be pretty,” he said.

Gray says the reopening of the state-testing site at Samaritan will also help alleviate some of the pressure put on local urgent care facilities and emergency departments.

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