Officials: COVID cases drop, but not enough

Image courtesy the Georgia Dept. of Public Health.

CANTON — Following a now familiar peak-and-valley pattern, St. Lawrence County’s novel coronavirus infection rate has dropped slightly this week.

Opening the county Board of Legislators’ Services Committee meeting Monday night, public health officials briefed lawmakers on the latest county case and vaccination data.

“Our weekly cases are still higher than what we would like them to be,” said Jolene F. Munger, who is serving as interim director of the county Public Health Department following the resignation of Dana O. McGuire last month.

With one day of data not yet included Monday night — weekly data reporting concludes on Tuesdays — the county’s six-day average of new daily cases was 15.9 over the past week. The previous seven-day new case average was 22.7 cases per day, after averages had been measuring under 10 and declining more consistently in February and March.

The number of new cases confirmed by the four Associated Colleges of the St. Lawrence Valley — SUNY Potsdam, SUNY Canton, Clarkson University and St. Lawrence University — decreased from 58 last week, and 57 the week prior, to 15 as of Monday.

The department has tracked “quite the increase” in K-12 cases, Ms. Munger noting the surge coincides with students returning from spring break.

In total, this week’s case count for six days dropped to 111 from the previous weekly total of 159. One person died of COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing the county death toll to 95 since March of last year.

The health department is continuing to issue daily case updates on weekdays, with weekend data being included in Monday releases.

More than 4,300 local residents have received at least one dose and nearly 3,000 have received two doses of a Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at county-run clinics, circulating across several locations to facilitate wider distribution and supplement the SUNY Potsdam state-run site. Clinics are being scheduled in Gouverneur, Massena, Ogdensburg, Canton and Star Lake as the county receives doses from the state.

Board of Health President Dr. Andrew F. Williams reviewed several frequently asked questions, telling legislators vaccination “significantly increases the activities that you can do safely.”

Though public health pillars of masking, physical distancing, hand washing, limited travel and staying home when sick have helped curb the virus’ full potential spread, social health, with mental and emotional health, has suffered.

“The reality is there’s a lot of social distancing that’s happened in this community and every community, and I think it’s been very damaging,” Dr. Williams said. “So vaccination is a pathway for people to reconnect.”

Dr. Williams said he often hears people say they are fed up with hearing about COVID, shutdowns and restrictions and ask: “What can I do?”

“That’s simple,” Dr. Williams said. “Get vaccinated.”

As of Monday morning, roughly 41.6% of St. Lawrence County’s 108,047 residents have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the state Department of Health.

Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses, and more than 36,600 people living in the county have so far completed a two-dose vaccine series, the state DOH reports.

For the north country region — grouped as Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton, Essex and Hamilton counties for COVID tracking — 40.8% of the total 418,971 population has received at least one vaccine dose. More than 136,700 people have completed a vaccine series as of Monday morning, an increase of about 7,000 from a week ago.

Check for SUNY Potsdam appointment availability at am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov.

County clinic registration links are posted on the Public Health Department website, at stlawco.org/covid-19-daily-update-center-pods. Fewer than 20 appointment slots were still available for Thursday’s clinic in Massena at the time of this report.

Older adults needing assistance scheduling vaccine appointments can call the county Office for the Aging at 315-386-4730. St. Lawrence County Public Transit is offering route deviations to bring riders to COVID-19 vaccination sites. Maps and schedules are viewable at slcnypublictransit.com.

The Public Health Department is also available to assist with registration and answer questions at 315-386-2325, or SLCCOVID19SharedMailbox@stlawco.org.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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