Chemung County labeled “high risk” for transmission by CDC as COVID-19 cases surge


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(WETM) – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chemung County is now at high risk for COVID-19 transmission. Health officials are concerned with the recent spike in cases nationwide caused by the delta variant. Local health experts say the surge in cases may seem similar to last year, but the local, regional and national COVID-19 situation is much different due to the vaccine rollout and the removal of several restrictions.

“We did have a number of new cases last week. What we’re seeing is kind of similar to last year because these cases are kind of starting to take off a little bit. What I think is a little bit more dangerous for us than last year is that we do have the protection afforded by the vaccine,” Pete Buzzetti, Chemung County Health director, added. “There is a large portion that is not vaccinated and they’re at risk.”

The CDC updated its county by county map showing several areas of New York and the United States at high risk. In New York, Steuben County remains at substantial risk, marked by orange on the map, and Schuyler County is moderate risk, marked by yellow shading on the map. In Pennsylvania, Bradford County is at a substantial risk while Tioga County remains at moderate risk.

“I think people should be very concerned. The low vaccination coverage within the communities is certainly driving a rapid surge in cases associated with a Delta variant that’s out there,” Angela Murray RN, BSN, senior director of quality management and performance improvement at Arnot Health, said.

Masks and other COVID precautions, like social distancing, are recommended in most indoor settings as the variants continue to spread and the virus mutates.

“The CDC’s recommending when you’re out in public that you wear a mask, socially distance and wash your hands,” Murray continued.

Testing also increased in Chemung County. The CDC reported a 12.7 percent increase in tests last week, which could be due to increased testing demand. When the vaccine rolled out in December 2020, the county saw a sharp decrease in tests, according to Buzzetti.

“I did see that increase in the testing and I think that’s a good thing. We’re talking about ways to potentially offer some additional testing from the health department standpoint,” Buzzetti continued.

In terms of future guidance and mandates, the health departments and local health providers are waiting for instruction from the New York State Department of Health. With the change in power, they are not sure when new mandates could roll out.

“It’s very unclear right now with the changes at the top levels of government for New York State. My recommendation to the public is to wear your mask when you’re inside,” Buzzetti concluded.

While the guidance keeps changing, healthcare experts are encouraging residents to be flexible and adaptable.

“We’re changing with the times. It’s not necessarily that we’re returning early days [of the pandemic], but as things change, we do have to adapt to that,” Murray stated.

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