ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – As New York State continues to reopen after over 18 months of lockdown, there’s new concern regarding an uptick in Covid-19 infections. According to health experts in the Twin Tiers, the threat of contracting the virus remains high for those who are unvaccinated.
Despite New York State achieving its 70-percent vaccination rate goal, numerous counties in the state lag behind that mark, including Steuben, Chemung and Schuyler counties, all of which have vaccination rates below 50-percent.
According to Steuben County Public Health Director Darlene Smith, all 14 active Covid-19 cases within the county are among unvaccinated individuals.
“They’re certainly putting others who have not been vaccinated at risk because those are the ones most likely to contract COVID,” Smith said “Those who have been vaccinated really don’t have anything to worry about.”
Smith told 18 News that the new, highly-contagious Delta variant has not yet been found in the Southern Tier and added that she believed there were numerous reasons for the uptick in cases, including travel. According to Smith, at least one new positive case was discovered after travel.
The risk for contracting COVID-19, Smith said, is higher due to the fact that New York State dropped its mask mandate nearly a month ago.
“I know that many who are not fully vaccinated are not wearing masks, and that is unfortunate,” Smith said. “Certainly the vaccine is a personal choice and I certainly respect those who make that choice not to move forward with getting vaccinated, but they should wear the mask when they’re out and about in the public.”
Smith and other health officials said that, combined with low vaccination rates, can create a breeding ground for new variants and another chance for the public to escape immunity.
“Those counties who have the lower vaccination rates are at the greatest risk for a spike in cases for a surge in cases,” Smith continued. “And have the Delta variant arrive and and become problematic in terms of transmission of the disease.”