LOWVILLE — Due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, the Lewis County Board of Legislators on Tuesday decided to require both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals entering county government facilities to wear a mask to protect against the spread of the virus.
With the uptick in cases for the week of July 27 through Aug. 2, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designated Lewis County as a substantial transmission zone. It is the only county in the north county with this designation. The CDC website shows that 43.7% of the county population have had at least one shot of the vaccination.
During Tuesday’s meeting, County Manager Ryan M. Piche pointed out that the CDC uses a per capita formula.
“On per capita we have a higher rate but that 27,000 (population) is spread out over 1,200 square miles,” he said.
District 2 Legislator Lisa Virkler urged the board to follow the CDC guidelines recommending the donning of masks for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
“We need to drive our cases down so the schools can open,” she said. “I’d hate to have the numbers skyrocket and jeopardize that.”
District 7 Legislator Greg Kulzer wanted to hold off on the mandate.
“I think we should wait a week and see if the spike continues,” he said. “We aren’t in the same scenario of the CDC’s way of thinking. I think we’re jumping the gun a little bit.”
District 4 Legislator Ian Gilbert urged the gathering of input from department heads.
Mr. Piche said county COVID cases were up by 33 since July 26.
The motion passed with Legislators Ron Burns, Ian Gilbert, Greg Kulzer and Andrea Moroughan, who also chairs the Health and Human Services committee, opposed.
The mask mandate will remain in place until the transmission rate in Lewis County returns to moderate transmission.
The board also approved using funding from the county fund balance reserve to fill the gap in funding to reopen the Maple Ridge COVID testing center. The county received a $1.1 million grant for school reopening testing, of which $600,000 could be utilized for the testing center. But it could only be used for those affiliated with a school district. It is hoped to have the test facility back in service three days a week starting Aug. 16.
In his report, Mr. Piche stressed the importance of continuing the push to get people vaccinated.
There will also be a vaccine clinic from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday at the Lowville Fire Department, 5420 The Parkway.
Vaccines are also available by appointment at Lewis County Public Health by calling 315-376-5453.