COVID-19 testing expands in St. Lawrence County

A healthcare worker at Canton-Potsdam Hospital’s drive in COVID-19 testing facility hands a patient informational paper work on April 17 before administering a test. This image has been altered to respect the patients right to anonymity. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

CLAYTON — With a spike in coronavirus cases this week along the St. Lawrence River, more than 400 people showed up to get tested for the virus on Friday.

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The results of 427 total tests are expected early next week to confirm additional people have contracted the virus after people gathered on boats near Picton Island off Clayton during the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

So many people suspected they were exposed to COVID-19 that tests were still given beyond the scheduled end time of 3 p.m. at the Clayton Fire Department. The state Department of Health provided the tests.

Not counting the tests that were completed in Clayton on Friday, eight more tests came back positive on Friday, bringing the total number of new cases in the county to 34 since Monday, according to Jefferson County’s daily coronavirus report.

“With today’s proactive testing approach to any remaining cases that might be linked to this past 4th of July weekend gatherings, we will have gone a long way to seize control of this unfortunate public health situation,” county officials said in the daily report.

“While we might see a measurable increase in reporting for a day or two next week, we should no longer see daily averages continuing as has been the case this past week.”

The Jefferson County Public Health Services and county officials hope that testing will prevent further spread of the virus.

While contact tracing and isolation continues on those cases, it does appear that two or three of them are not likely to be related at all to the situation along the riverfront communities, according to the county’s daily report.

Stephen A. Jennings, public health planner for the Jefferson County Public Health Service, said testing is the only way to stop the spread of the virus.

“Testing always helps,” he said. “Always, always, always.

While the July Fourth gathering caused the brunt of the illness’s spread, Mr. Jennings urged people to be diligent in wearing masks, obeying social distancing and not gathering in large groups.

Earlier this week, Clayton residents became concerned about an outbreak after people circulated around bars and restaurants last weekend. There were other boat gatherings along the river that weekend.

“The Clayton event was very successful and the DOH was amazed by the turnout considering very little public notification,” said Scott A. Gray, chairman of the Jefferson County Legislature. “The community is overwhelmingly appreciative.”

A state health department official told Mr. Gray that he was shocked so many people showed up to the Clayton testing with such little prior publicity, since 680 people were tested at a Utica event that received more attention.

The state health department official also “recognized the turnout of people from the businesses that have been affected was a good thing,” Mr. Gray said.

Two Clayton restaurants — DiPrinzio’s Kitchen and the Wood Boat Brewery — each had an employee test positive for the virus and temporarily closed while other workers were tested and their buildings underwent a deep cleaning.

Out of an abundance of caution, O’Brien’s Restaurant also closed and was cleaned. No employees tested positive as of Thursday.

There are now 37 people in mandatory isolation but still only one being hospitalized and another one having recovered for a new total of 107, according to the county. The number of precautionary quarantines decreased by 41 for a current total of 151 but mandatory quarantines increased to 156.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(4) comments


The major concern is not so much the level of non compliance in establishments that apply the rules. It’s the reality of how people in the community at large behave when they are on the honor system. There are countless situations where gatherings are occurring with absolutely no guidelines. It seems that there is an impression of being immune to contracting this virus and possibly becoming another statistic. Not sure if the NC has a false sense of security as NY has successfully decreased numbers, but this can’t last when people ignore the rules all together when not being watched.


[thumbup] it's really pretty simple. Follow the guidelines of those who have devoted their lives to this sort of thing. Are they going to be right all the time? No probably not but they will be right an overwhelming amount of the time. This virus doesn't seem to adhere to the normal protocols of a virus, thus the 'novel' in the novel coronavirus. To simply dismiss this as the same as the common cold as some tRUMP sycophants have is dangerous. I know of no person who has died from the common cold.


So many people suspected they were exposed because you couldn't walk into any business without seeing patrons without masks not being challenged... they had two large boat rallies(and they postponed the Antique Boat Show??)... at least one local businesses openly defied Cuomo's mandates...along with the normal Picton Island boat party... It'd be interesting to know the average age being tested.... since it's the young party crowd that needs to take this seriously...and I didn't see any of that group in line to be test.. You'll see boats rafting along the river again this weekend... until there's a vaccination we're screwed..


[thumbup]And it really makes no sense to hold a bass tournament in Clayton either. I've been quick to blame republicans for not wearing masks but apparently there's another demographic to chastise. When I worked the election there were two younger lads that didn't wear. The one that got my goat was an 'older' woman (young by my standards!) whose son came in earlier to vote and begrudgingly put a mask on. This mother came in sometime later who out and out refused to do so. I suspect little johnny told her his tale of woe cause she hadn't voted for years but wanted to make a republican point that she didn't have to and wouldn't. They run a business in Gouverneur and I'll bet there isn't an ounce of precaution taken there cause they're smarter than the experts.

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