Washington County surpassed 10,000 Covid-19 cases on Jan. 14 with 10,141 cases reported to the state Department of Health.
As of Jan. 23, the cumulative number has increased to 10,856 reported cases. There were 40 reported new positives, a decrease of 19 cases from the day prior.
The virus has killed four in Washington County in the last two weeks, raising the death toll in the county to 78 since the pandemic began.
Case surges on Jan. 19 and Jan. 21 went against steady declines in positive tests and tests performed.
Jan. 13 was a historical day in regard to Covid-19 testing, as 170 new positive tests were reported and 985 tests were performed.
As of Jan. 23, 224,549 total tests have been performed since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Washington County Public Health team reported 693 active Covid-19 cases and 11 active hospitalizations as of Jan. 24.
Washington County ended its contact tracing from the public health team on Jan. 13 in accordance with Gov. Hochul’s guidance.
The county is now heavily relying on individuals to report their positive Covid-19 tests on the county website at https://hipaa.jotform.com/220053184973051.
“I think it was viewed as inevitable,” said Roger Wickes, Washington County Covid-19 spokesman. “With the volume, there was no way we could contact trace. The pivot now is the testing, let’s find these people as early as we can so we can help them.”
Kingsbury supervisor Dana Hogan spoke on the transition from county contact tracing to the state health department’s virtual call center.
“This seems like a logical step when we consider the limited human and financial resources we have in Washington County,” Hogan said.
Salem supervisor Sue Clary said she depended on the Washington County daily updates and weekly town-by-town statistics. The daily updates continue, but not as detailed as before with the transfer of responsibility brought to state’s Virtual Call Center.
“I think it’s a transition time, I don’t know how we’re going to keep track of things,” she said.
“I give kudos to the Washington County Public Health team,” she added. “They are truly giving of themselves seven days a week over eight-hour shifts. They are trying to keep our residents in Washington County safe and healthy…
“The best thing we can do for each other is to get vaccinated, wear medical masks and be kind to each other,” Clary said.
Washington County will soon be offering a testing site for two days a week, as well as receiving more test kits to be distributed to the 17 townships by population size.
On concerns with the at-home testing and reporting, Wickes said the county is still trying to figure out all the answers during this “monumental shift.”
“Is it because people aren’t testing or do people not have the resources to test? That’s the question and we’re looking for the answer to that,” Wickes said.
In an effort to “expand testing capacity and increase access to free testing” against the Covid-19 pandemic, President Joe Biden’s administration launched the order of 500 million at-home test kits for American citizens.
“To help ensure Americans have tests on hand if a need arises, the Biden Administration is purchasing one billion at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests to give to Americans for free,” the White House said in a press release on Jan. 14. “A half-billion tests will be available for order on Jan. 19 and will be mailed directly to American households.”
Individuals can sign up to receive a package that includes four rapid antigen Covid-19 tests with free shipping at https://special.usps.com/testkits.
Granville postmaster Shane Hamm is expecting an influx of test kits this week, as he was told to expect his personal package of four at-home test kits by Jan. 24.
“I would say yes, not just for the need for them but because of the availability of them in the area hasn’t really been there. And it’s free of shipping,” Hamm said. “I personally went on myself and ordered one to see how it would work.”
Clary said her daughter is a school teacher and with family members ranging in age from under 5 to over 80, the at-home tests have provided a sense of relief for everyday life.
“Personally, I’ve actually seen them used quite frequently,” Clary said. “There’s a sense of safety I see people using for that. As far as keeping the data up with the New York contact tracing, we have to trust that people are going to do the right thing.”
Kingsbury’s Hogan spoke on the current state of the town he was elected to represent; one that has consistently ranked at the top of Covid-19 cases in Washington County on a weekly basis, according to the county’s public health team.
“With respect to Covid-19, Kingsbury, like many communities, appears to be working through this once-in-a-century event. Our residents have been very patient, for which we are grateful. We’ve learned a great deal about remote work, virtual meetings, etc.,” Hogan said. “With that said, I’m looking forward to having the Covid pandemic behind us.”
Hogan encourages those who haven’t already done so to get vaccinated, boosted, practice social distancing and continue to listen to medical experts by testing when not feeling well.
“From the beginning, testing, vaccinations and social distancing have been offered up as the keys to success according to medical experts,” Hogan said. “Increasing the number of testing kits available to the general public in the United States would seem like a positive step toward management, slowing the spread, and hopefully, eradication of Covid-19.
“I’m an optimist by nature. I believe if we continue to make good individual choices, listen to the medical experts in our communities, we’ll ultimately see this pandemic in the rear-view mirror…I say my prayers and keep my fingers crossed anyway.”