As the number of COVID-19 cases remains high in the Tri-Lakes, public health officials continue to urge caution at holiday gatherings and encourage people to get vaccinated. Some local officials and regional hospital leaders are urging people to get vaccinated to prevent hospitals from becoming overloaded and to contain the spread of the virus.
“If people think they’re Superman, fine. Good for you,” Tupper Lake mayor Paul Maroun said Tuesday. “But get vaccinated so you don’t give it to someone else.”
Essex County Health Department program coordinator Andrea Whitmarsh said the North was still in a “active pandemic” phase and that “The positivity numbers are as high as ever.”
The recent rise in the number of cases is comparable to the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in this area around this time last year. At the time, public health officials attributed the increase in cases to holiday gatherings. This year the number of active cases is several times higher than in 2020.
“I think it’s a combination of gatherings, people being looser and constraints being looser,” Sarah Granquist, a public health educator in Franklin County, said Tuesday. “Last year around this time we had travel restrictions, post-travel quarantine mandates, mask mandates and schools were remote.”
Whitmarsh said the county’s efforts to track down contracts showed a trend or greater household dispersion this year, which she attributed to the more contagious delta strain of the coronavirus.
“The main trend we want residents to be aware of – especially before the holidays – is the trend for entire households to be affected by COVID when one person in the house becomes ill,” she wrote in an email. “Because the delta variant is so much more contagious, it has become more difficult to prevent disease/infection in families that are in close contact with each other, sometimes even when individuals are fully vaccinated. That said, vaccination still helps tremendously in these scenarios – and remains highly effective in preventing moderate to severe symptomatic infection, hospitalization and death – and so we continue to recommend COVID vaccination as the first line of defense.”
Glens Falls Hospital issued a press release on Tuesday to say that the total number of hospitalized patients is currently higher than at any time during the pandemic, and that the hospital “past capacity.”
“With this spike happening, we are all very concerned about what will come a week or two after the Thanksgiving rallies, let alone what might come in January,” Glens Falls Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer Howard Fritz said in a statement. “You have to assume that any large gathering you attend will expose you to COVID-19, so always wear your mask. Remember that masks reduce your risk of getting sick, but also your chance of making someone else sick if you are infected but are not yet aware of the symptoms.”
On Tuesday, Adirondack Health spokesperson Matt Scollin reported that four people had been hospitalized with COVID-19 at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake. One of them was on a ventilator, he said.
Local numbers remain high
Franklin County Public Health reported 36 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total number of active cases to 262.
Of these active cases, 51 are in Tupper Lake, 27 in Harrietstown and 81 in Malone.
“I beg everyone to get vaccinated,” Maroun said Tuesday. “If you’re not worried about yourself, that’s one thing, but your family, your friends, older people, people who might be more prone to illness. You can give it to them and they can die from it.”
After the Thanksgiving holiday last year, Tupper Lake became Franklin County’s COVID-19 epicenter, despite having the third-largest population, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
The virus has spread in Franklin County jails. Franklin Correctional in Malone now reports that 12 inmates have the virus and Franklin County Jail in Malone reports two positive cases.
A total of 25 people have died from COVID-19 in Franklin County, according to FCPH.
On Monday, Essex County Public Health reported 64 new cases since the last report on Thursday, bringing the total number of active cases to 122.
Of these new cases, 10 were in North Elba, two in St. Armand and one in Wilmington.
Four active cases have been reported to the Federal Correctional Institute at Ray Brook Prison.
A total of 40 deaths in Essex County have been attributed to COVID-19.
The number of new cases has risen slightly over the past three weeks, despite being high throughout the fall. Both provinces registered about as many cases in the first 23 days of November as in all of October, with one week remaining in the month.
Franklin County Public Health reported 734 new cases of COVID-19 in October. The province has reported 727 so far in November. The Essex County Health Department reported 464 new cases of COVID-19 in October. The province has reported 469 cases so far in November.
Last year, as of November 1, Franklin County had seen a total of 183 positive cases year-round, with just 19 new cases in the month of October. In the first 23 days of November 2020, the province had 161 more cases, almost the same as the total of the previous eight months.
Granquist said since the county began registering vaccination status for new COVID-19-positive cases in July, 55.5% of people who tested positive for COVID-19 have not been vaccinated, 34.58% have been vaccinated and the rest have unknown vaccination status.
“You are 11 times – 11 times – more likely to die as an adult from COVID-19 if you are not vaccinated,” Robert Reeves, a physician at Irongate Family Practice in Glens Falls, said in a statement. “I just can’t say it any other way; you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to get vaccinated.”
“Boosters and an overall increase in the percentage of residents vaccinated have likely helped keep hospital admissions manageable,” Whitmarsh wrote.
In September, a quarter of positive cases reported to ECHD were fully vaccinated individuals, Whitmarsh said. In October, that rose to 39%.
“It is important to note that these infections represent a very small proportion of all vaccinated individuals,” Whitmarsh wrote.
According to data from the Ministry of Health, as of November 15, 1.2% of fully vaccinated people aged 12 years or older had “breakthrough” COVID-19 cases – when someone who has been vaccinated then tests positive for the virus. She said hospitalizations of vaccinated people remain very low, with 0.08% of fully vaccinated people aged 12 or older being hospitalized for COVID-19.
Franklin County Public Health plans to hold vaccine clinics every Thursday in December. The majority of these will be in Malone, but on December 30, FCPH will hold a Pfizer booster clinic in Tupper Lake at Holy Ghost Academy, 40 Marion St., from 2 to 6 p.m. This clinic is for 18 years and older. FCPH said drop-ins are welcome, but there will be a limited number of doses and priority will be given to those who pre-register.
No registration links have yet been issued for these clinics.
A pediatric vaccine clinic will be held Monday in Tupper Lake at the gymnasium of LP Quinn Elementary School, at 25 Chaney Ave.
Organized by Adirondack Health and Hudson Headwaters Health Network, the clinic will give children between the ages of 5 and 11 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from 3:30 PM to 6:00 PM.
“(The) vaccine will be available at no cash cost to everyone”, Adirondack Health Marketing Manager Steve Bradley wrote in an email. “Children who have a health insurance card should bring it, but no child between the ages of 5 and 11 will be turned away, regardless of school district, country of residence or insurance status.”
Bradley said the clinic is first come, first served. He said light refreshments will be provided but children must eat before arrival.
“Pediatricians from Adirondack Health and Hudson Headwaters Health Network will be on hand to answer any parent or child questions about the vaccine,” Bradley wrote.
Whitmarsh said it is unclear when the area will be off the air “active pandemic” phase.
“It is difficult to predict when we will reach a ‘post-pandemic’ stage as this is a new virus and we have no historical data to tell us what levels would be considered ‘normal’ or ‘expected’ viral activity levels. ” she wrote.