CANTON — The region’s COVID-19 picture is continuing to evolve with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracking of surging transmission rates.
The summer’s earlier multi-colored CDC map representing transmission levels in counties across the country has approached a monochromatic red over the last two weeks. More than 84% of U.S. counties are now reporting a high level of transmission as more easily transmissible coronavirus variants — especially the delta variant — gain prominence.
In New York — from the city’s boroughs through the Hudson Valley, and from Albany through Central New York and the north country — transmission levels in several counties have climbed to the CDC’s high level.
St. Lawrence, Franklin, Lewis and Hamilton counties are listed as having high transmission as of Monday. Jefferson, Herkimer and Essex counties maintain substantial transmission. Clinton County is holding at a moderate level.
The four levels — low, moderate, substantial and high — are based on the number of new cases per 100,000 people in a given week. Substantial classification equates to between 50 and 99 new cases; high classification means at least 100 new cases in a seven-day period.
In counties where transmission is substantial or high, the CDC recommends wearing masks in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status. The region’s local governments have not issued any broad mask or vaccine mandates as of Tuesday, though public health officials across the north country are, in line with the CDC, recommending masking indoors.
St. Lawrence County on Tuesday cited the weekend’s stark increase in cases in a message strongly urging residents and visitors to mask up.
Four weeks ago, St. Lawrence County averaged two new cases a day, interim Public Health Director Jolene F. Munger said. Now, the daily average is up to 31. This weekend alone saw a jump of 120 new confirmed cases. In less than a week, the county moved from moderate to high transmission.
Of the county’s total 202 active cases, last updated Monday, the town of Potsdam accounts for 30 positives, with 29 in Ogdensburg and 19 in Massena.
In Jefferson County, the total number of infected people in mandatory isolation jumped from 80 to 90 over the last week. A week ago, 2.6% of the county’s coronavirus test results were positive. That figure increased to 2.9% Monday. Jefferson County officials had already been encouraging the public to follow the CDC’s updated mask guidance at the beginning of the month, prior to reaching substantial transmission.
Unvaccinated people at least 2 years old continue to be encouraged to wear masks indoors, and masks are still mandated for all people on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transit, as well as in airports and at stations. Masks are also generally still mandated for the public in health care environments, shelters, nursing homes and certain government buildings, like correctional facilities and courthouses.
In the north country region — grouped as Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton, Essex and Hamilton counties for COVID tracking — more than 1,800 people got vaccinated in the last week, according to the state Department of Health.
CDC data indicate roughly 70% of the region’s adults have completed a vaccine series as of Tuesday morning, bringing the rate for the total population up to about 58%.
St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Lewis counties continue to host vaccination clinics. Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines can be administered to anyone at least 12 years old. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are available for anyone at least 18 years old. Vaccine and appointment information is posted to each county’s public health website.