HUDSON—Columbia County officials say they are concerned about the recent uptick in positive coronavirus tests in northern Columbia County.
The spike has sounded alarm bells for county leadership, raising concerns that a large-scale coronavirus spread may be in the offing if individuals fail to take the appropriate measures to combat the spread of the virus.
In a July 6 press release, Columbia County Department of Health Director Jack Mabb said that “clusters are popping up—we hope it stays that way and doesn’t develop into something larger.”
Mr. Mabb said the numbers that emerge following the July 4 weekend will tell the story. “There were a lot of backyard gatherings at which social distancing and mask wearing was not practiced.”
Just as Columbia County officials are keeping their eyes on the numbers so is the Harvard Global Health Institute, which along with other researchers and public health experts, launched a new Covid Risk Level map July 1 “to bring clarity to key metrics guiding the coronavirus response” and “help cut through the noise and sometimes conflicting advice.”
View the map at https://globalepidemics.org/key-metrics-for-covid-suppression/.
In a press release accompanying the new Covid Risk Level map, Danielle Allen, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, explained, “The public needs clear and consistent information about Covid risk levels in different jurisdictions for personal decision-making, and policy-makers need clear and consistent visibility that permits differentiating policy across jurisdictions. We also collectively need to keep focused on what should be our main target: a path to near zero case incidence.”
The new framework brings clarity to metrics that help communities determine the severity of the outbreak they are responding to. The new Covid Risk Level map shows if a county or state is on the green, yellow, orange or red risk level, based on the number of new daily cases. The framework then delivers broad guidance on the intensity of control efforts needed based on these Covid risk levels. It offers key performance indicators for testing and contact tracing across all risk levels, as a backbone for suppression efforts, the press release says.
The map shows Columbia County at the second lowest risk level, labeled “yellow” or “Community Spread,” which indicates 1 to 9 cases per 100,000 people and advises “rigorous trace and test programs.”
Specifically the July 8 map shows this county as having 3.4 daily new cases per 100,000 (a seven-day average) with 477 total cases and 47 deaths.
Figures from the county Department of Health (DOH) as of July 7 at 3 p.m. show 37 residents have died from Covid-19 and 453 confirmed positive cases.
Asked about the difference in the numbers, county DOH Director Mabb told The Columbia Paper this week by email, “They get their numbers from the State DOH. They include positive people we have done our homework on and found them to live either in the city or another county.
“As far as the death difference we’ve asked the State DOH to take a look at this. We’ve had people die at CMH [Columbia Memorial Hospital] who don’t live in the county. We also know of at least one individual who was moved from Barnwell [The Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing at Barnwell in Valatie] to their facility in Rome who died there. Barnwell never told us about him and it there could be others,” wrote Mr. Mabb.
In the county’s July 6 press release, Mr. Mabb said, “We see the rise in Covid-19 infections happening around the country, and we all need to remain mindful that while things have been relatively stable in the county and the state, a new major outbreak could occur at any time. And testing remains a critical part of helping to contain the virus.”
Director Mabb said that the county DOH receives daily complaints about businesses that are not enforcing mask-wearing and other measures among their staff. To report violations of health and safety restrictions and requirements for businesses, gatherings and individuals, visit: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/home
Two such recent violations of the governor’s executive orders implemented to combat the coronavirus occurred in West Lebanon and Kinderhook.
The State Liquor Authority (SLA) ordered emergency summary suspension of the liquor license for Lebanon Valley Speedway at 1746 US-20 in West Lebanon, July 3. According to the SLA, the Speedway “advertised and promoted large events open to the public, with no limit on attendees in violation of the governor’s executive orders implemented to combat the coronavirus.” The Speedway was “warned prior to the events by the SLA about size and distancing requirements for these sorts of events, but refused to comply or cancel. Effective immediately, no alcohol may be sold or consumed on the premises of these businesses.”
In a July 4 press release, State Liquor Authority Chairman Vincent Bradley said, “Large gatherings in violation of the governor’s executive orders risk lives and will not be tolerated. While we understand the economic hardships these businesses face, we’re in the middle of a global health pandemic and these types of events pose a serious risk of undermining the progress New York State has made.”
According to the SLA, the Speedway advertised a schedule of auto races and a fireworks display at the premises July 4.
The July 4 event was advertised as open to spectators. Though Speedway officials were advised by the SLA that the event would be in violation of the governor’s executive orders, Speedway officials told the SLA they intended to proceed with the event even though the Speedway’s alcoholic beverage license was at risk of being lost.
An email request for comment from Speedway officials was not answered.
A violation also occurred at ClubLife Health and Fitness in Valatie, which was shut down when a cease-and-desist order from the Town of Kinderhook was issued after the club reopened this week, according to information provided by newsman Lance Wheeler. Alex Rosenstrach is the owner of ClubLife Health and Fitness on Route 9. The Kinderhook code enforcement officer issued the order to close the business and the owner was issued an appearance ticket.
“While the Town of Kinderhook sought to work with this business owner to secure voluntary compliance with the law, ClubLife refused to follow the clear mandates set forth in the executive orders,” Kinderhook Town Supervisor Patsy Leader said in a statement.
Mr. Wheeler also reported that Columbia County Sheriff’s Office personnel executed a search warrant at the Route 21 home of Mr. Rosenstrach the afternoon of July 7.
Investigators are looking for evidence in an alleged assault at the Rosenstrach home that occurred July 4. Mr. Rosenstrach allegedly hosted a party that resulted in one person being hospitalized, according to Mr. Wheeler.
State Police provided assistance on the scene.
ClubLife owner Mr. Rosenstrach declined to comment, Mr. Wheeler reported.
The New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services says there has been a continued uptick in the percentage of positive Covid-19 test results around the state, said the county’s July 6 press release. For example, Wednesday, July 1, when 3,163 tests were conducted there were in 37 positive cases, for a positive rate of 1.17%. This marks the first time there have been consecutive days where the positive rate percentage was above 1.0 since June 1 and 2.
“All of us must remain vigilant. We see people who don’t seem to understand the extremely contagious nature of this virus until they or someone they know contract it. There’s no use to be in denial about the dangers of the coronavirus,” county Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell said in the release.
The chairman issued a warning about the economic devastation that awaits if another lockdown were to become necessary around the state: “For us to go backwards now would amount to a total disaster. The first time around was bad enough, but we simply cannot afford to shut down again. We would see restaurants and other businesses close for good. It’s up to every individual to follow the [Centers for Disease Control] CDC-issued steps to practice social distancing, mask-wearing, and hand washing. Remember, it could only take one asymptomatic case to become a potential super-spreader.”
Go to the county health department’s website to find the list of upcoming coronavirus test clinics: www.columbiacountynyhealth.com
To contact Diane Valden, email