Lewis fire depts. distributing free masks, COVID test kits

Signs direct traffic to the state COVID-19 testing site in Lewis County just outside of Lowville at the Maple Ridge Center, 7421 East Road. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

LOWVILLE — Lewis County will be conducting a county-wide distribution of COVID-19 testing kits and masks on Saturday morning.

It is also one of the only counties in the state that has announced it will be following new quarantining and isolation guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rather than those set by the state.

From 10 a.m. until noon Saturday, residents can go to their local fire departments to receive a maximum of three Quickvue Home Test Kits, up to five KN95 masks and not more than 10 surgical masks per person, all free of charge.

According to County Manager Ryan M. Piche, the county purchased 8,000 test kits three weeks ago. Those were combined with the 1,100 supplied by the state, along with 7,500 KN95 masks and 7,000 surgical masks to be offered to county residents.

The Beaver Falls, Castorland, Constableville, Copenhagen, Croghan, 3-G in Glenfield, 3-G in Brantingham, Lowville, Lyons Falls, Martinsburg, New Bremen, Port Leyden, Turin, West Leyden and Harrisville fire departments all agreed to participate and will each be given a $500 donation from the county manager’s discretionary fund.

The state also distributed test kits to schools so each student can take one home.

While the post-holiday surge with the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus is already underway, the test kits are a new option that can help prevent accidental contaminations.

“The home test kits are a tool that we didn’t have the last time around. We hope (people) will use them when they have cold-like symptoms coming on, before going to an event or getting together with friends,” Mr. Piche said. “This is a tool we can use to keep people out of quarantine, to keep people safe so we really encourage folks to pick them up and use them.”

Each antigen test kit has two tests “intended to be used twice over two to three days, with at least 24 hours and no more than 36 hours between tests,” according to information on the box, to ensure false positives or negatives are caught. Anyone testing positive with the kit is asked to report the result to county Public Health.

The county also announced that the recent changes to the CDC quarantine and isolation guidelines will be the new standard — with a local tweak based on Public Health’s data.

Because Lewis County Public Health still does all of the contact tracing for COVID-19 among residents, Mr. Piche said, county officials are able to make their own decisions about which guidelines will be followed.

Most other counties statewide have relinquished tracing responsibilities to the state Department of Health.

Going forward, all people who test positive for COVID-19 will have to isolate for five days, regardless of vaccination, per the CDC decrease from 10 days. People who remain without symptoms can end their isolation but are required to wear a “well-fitted mask” when around other people for five additional days.

People with more risk factors for becoming severely ill and anyone with trouble breathing, persistent chest pain or pressure, an altered mental state or other symptoms are expected to stay in isolation for the full 10 days.

Based on data collected and analyzed by Public Health from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 80% of people in the county who tested positive for COVID-19 and knew who had exposed them to the virus — which was 58% of all residents who tested positive — were found to have contracted the disease from someone in their household.

As a result, only unvaccinated people or those who have not had a booster but are eligible and are exposed to COVID at home will be required to quarantine, although others may be asked to quarantine based on the amount of their exposure to an infected person.

Vaccinated and boosted people and those who were diagnosed with COVID in the last 90 days who are exposed to someone who tests positive will not have to quarantine, but instead are expected to wear masks around others for 10 days.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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