County Enters ‘High’ COVID Transmission Rate

A map of New York state from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of COVID community transmission from Aug 15 to Aug 21.

Though Chautauqua County is now seeing “high” transmission of COVID-19 in the community other, just as equally important, metrics such as hospitalizations and use of intensive care unit beds for the critically sick remain low.

That’s the view of County Executive PJ Wendel after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention level of community transmission rose over the weekend from “substantial” to “high.”

The CDC strongly recommends, whether someone is vaccinated or not, wearing face masks indoors in areas with “substantial” and “high” transmission of COVID-19. As of Monday, all but two counties in New York state are seeing “substantial” or “high” transmission of the virus.

An area seeing at least 50 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents over seven days is considered “substantial” spread; an area seeing at least 100 cases per 100,000 residents over seven days is considered “high” spread.

“One of the things we have to look at, if we’re at a high rate, is that coupled with other factors,” Wendel said of the CDC level of community transmission, as well as the hospitalization rate and the number of ICU beds in use. “We’re in high transmission, but we aren’t seeing those other metrics to go into another direction.”

The county Health Department on Monday reported 91 new cases of COVID-19 from information collected Friday through Sunday. The department also reported a new virus-related death.

Since Aug. 1, there have been 365 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the county. According to the health department, 62% of the new cases this month are from those not vaccinated; 4% have been partially vaccinated; 16% fully vaccinated; and 17% whose vaccination status is not known.

The bulk of cases recorded over the weekend came from the Jamestown zip code, with 36. Nine each were reported in Dunkirk and Forestville, along with four in Fredonia and seven in Lakewood. Several municipalities also reported a handful of new cases.

There are currently 156 active cases of the virus in the county, seven people with the virus in the hospital, 323 in quarantine and seven-day positivity rate of 5.2%.

To date there have been 9,790 total confirmed cases, 9,393 recoveries and 160 virus-related deaths.

In regard to fatalities, four involved people between the ages of 40 and 49; eight between 50 and 59; 16 between 60 and 69; 35 between 70 and 79; 59 between 80 and 89; and 38 over the age of 90.

COVID-19 restrictions lifted in mid-June after 70% of adults in New York state received their first vaccine. Specific guidelines — including social gathering limits, capacity restrictions, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, health screening and contact information for tracing — became optional for retail, food services, offices, gyms and fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barber shops and personal care services.

The easing of restrictions didn’t mean the virus was no longer a threat, Wendel said Monday. “We never said we were going to stop or eradicate COVID,” he said.

Regarding face masks, which the county executive said he’s been questioned often on lately, he said it should be left up to each individual to make a decision.

“We never told anyone to stop wearing a mask once the mandate was lifted,” said Wendel, later adding, “If you want to wear a mask in public because you feel unsafe, you’re free to do so.”

However, the county executive said now is not the time to again mandate that people wear face masks in public. He said the entire process, specifically the vaccine rollout, has been highly politicized by the federal government.


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