WATERTOWN — As the country grapples with a massive “second wave” of coronavirus infections, Jefferson County Board of Legislators Chairman Scott A. Gray is reiterating his call for all Jefferson County residents to respect social distancing and mask requirements.
Over the weekend, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties collectively logged nearly 100 positive virus cases, a sharp increase from the summer when the three-county region logged on average less than five positive cases per day.
“We are seeing a spike right now,” Mr. Gray said. “We do not anticipate the trajectory of what we’re seeing changing in the near future.”
Mr. Gray said it’s imperative county residents continue to observe social distancing rules and wear masks when in public to combat the spread of the virus, and to ensure another shutdown is not deemed necessary.
Mr. Gray also said county residents need to remain cautious at all gatherings, not just ones held in public.
“When people are out in public, they’re often following all the necessary precautions; they’re at a heightened level of awareness,” he said. “But when they get to something that’s in their home, or a friend’s home, all the precautions seem to go out the window. There’s no social distancing, there are no masks and there’s been a substantial uptick traced to small gatherings.”
Nationwide, public health officials have reported, through contact tracing, they’ve tracked an increasing number of virus infection clusters to small, private social gatherings held behind closed doors.
This led Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to declare the state’s first step back into coronavirus restrictions since the summer on Nov. 11, when he declared bars, restaurants and gyms must close by 10 p.m., and gatherings in private homes must be limited to 10 people, except legal residents of the dwelling.
The regional control rooms, which were established over the summer to bring local leadership into the statewide virus response, are still active. Mr. Gray said he still participates in the four weekly calls between the control rooms and the governor’s office. He said on those calls, he and his other local leaders have been stressing how critical it is that businesses and schools be allowed to remain open.
“We’re very vocal, and the fact of the matter is we can manage the virus and we can stay open,” he said. “It is critical that our businesses stay open. We will manage the virus. We’re asking the governor: Keep us open.”
Mr. Gray said, moving forward, the Jefferson County government will be increasing the number of virus tests administered per day in order to catch positive cases more quickly.
“The more we test, the quicker we can find the positives and isolate them, and then if everyone is cooperative through the contact tracing process, we can quarantine people, and that is how we blunt the spread,” he said.
Despite his concerns over the region’s spike in cases, Mr. Gray said he’s confident that with the public’s cooperation and the continued work of the Jefferson County Public Health Service, the spread can be combated without relying on another broad shutdown of businesses.
“We think we can handle this, from a public health standpoint, manage the virus and allow businesses and schools to stay open,” he said. “But we need the public’s cooperation. It’s in the best interests of their friends and neighbors that they cooperate.”