ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – In September, Steuben County saw 15 COVID-related deaths, which is a spike in comparison to the summer months. In the Southern Tier, Chemung County currently has more than 500 active cases while Steuben recorded more than 400. Even though the vaccine is readily available, officials are still concerned.
“What we’re seeing at this point is highly concerning,” Steuben County Manager Jack Wheeler said to 18 News Thursday.
Last year, COVID-19 cases began to increase as October began, but this wave began in August. Now, the case numbers are approaching where they were last winter when Steuben County hit its peak.
“With the number of cases we see we just know there’s a correlation to severe illness, hospitalization, and death,” Wheeler continued.
On September 30, 2020, 11 people tested positive in Steuben County according to New York State data. Now, the county is averaging nearly 60 cases per day with a significant increase in cases in children.
“Most people feel that our infection rate being higher than New York State is related to the percentage of unvaccinated community members,” Dr. Steven Heneghan, chief medical officer at Arnot Health, added.
The virus has come in waves, but this wave is particularly concerning for medical experts because it is caused by the highly contagious delta variant.
“We have seen a pattern of the virus going through waves. Even before the delta variant, there were waves and we are in one locally right now, which is pretty close to approximating our highest level,” Dr. Heneghan said.
Many people are divided on if a mask and social distancing mandates should return to daily life. Wheeler does not think a mandate is an answer.
“The thing that we don’t want to have right now in terms of our messaging is to muddy down and to confuse it,” Wheeler said.
He felt that some of the mandates created by former Gov. Cuomo were confusing for his county and residents because they were not geared toward rural areas. Mitigation strategies, though, are necessary according to the Stueben County Manager.
“Everyone needs to get back to some sense of normal. We are so thankful that schools and businesses are open. We’re just urging a little more mindfulness in terms of masking protocols,” Wheeler continued.