As Franklin County confirms 1st case of COVID-19, Essex confirms 5th

SARANAC LAKE — The first case of COVID-19 in Franklin County has been confirmed.

The person has been under quarantine since this past Saturday, March 21, according to the county’s Emergency Operations Center. He or she — the county did not specify — is now in isolation quarantine at home. The county Public Health department is required to check on that person twice a day, contact the person randomly and find people who may have been within 6 feet of them recently.

Essex County confirmed its fifth case of COVID-19 Wednesday evening. The patient was tested at Elizabethtown Community Hospital, according to Essex County Health Department Public Information Officer Andrea Whitmarsh. The person has traveled domestically, not internationally, recently. Essex County Public Health Director Linda Beers said Tuesday that it’s now clear the county is facing “community spread,” meaning that it’s unclear where some confirmed cases were exposed to the virus. Altogether, the department is aware of 53 people countywide who have been tested and received results, 48 of them negative. Fourteen people remain in mandatory quarantine, 18 people are under precautionary quarantine.

No identifying information was released about Franklin County’s confirmed case. It’s unclear where the person was tested, if the person had symptoms prior to being in quarantine or developed symptoms after already being in quarantine, or if the person has traveled recently. It’s unclear how likely, or unlikely, it is that other members of the public were exposed to the virus.

Franklin County Public Health Director Kathleen Strack was not available to answer questions Wednesday and has not responded to prior requests for information since the COVID-19 pandemic reached the North Country. The county Public Health department deferred all questions to the county’s COVID-19 hotline run by its EOC, which is set up to take information from possible patients and point them in the right direction, but for the last few days the EOC has either deferred specific questions from the media back to the Public Health department or said it was unable to provide answers.

The Franklin County Public Health department received notification of the positive result on Tuesday. The news was announced Wednesday.

In a news release, the county EOC said the Public Health department is “conducting an investigation to determine where this individual may have been exposed” and tracing possible exposure risks through contact tracing.

There are now more than 60 people in quarantine awaiting test results in Franklin County, according to the EOC. As of Tuesday, there were more than 50. The exact number of people in quarantine was not given. At least 47 people had been tested and received negative results as of Tuesday.

“All indications point to the possibility of a sharp increase in positive tests and quarantines,” a news release from the EOC reads. “The best way to avoid contracting COVID-19 is to reduce the contact with other people and stay home.”

Franklin County was one of the last of New York’s 62 counties to have reported no confirmed COVID-19 cases. Its county seat is Malone, and it stretches from the Canadian border south to include Tupper Lake and half of Saranac Lake, which is also partly in Essex County.

Clinton County had nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday, the Press-Republican reported. One of those people is an inmate at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora.

New York had 30,811 confirmed cases as of Wednesday evening, up by more than 5,000 from Tuesday, according to the New York Times. New York cases now account for more than 7% of the 431,000 confirmed cases worldwide. At least 285 deaths have been confirmed across the state.

More than half of confirmed cases in this state so far, 17,856, have been in New York City, where thousands of people are being tested each day. Beers has attributed Essex County’s low confirmed case count to restricted access to testing. Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone and Elizabethtown Community Hospital have all restricted testing to inpatients to conserve testing materials, which are in short supply nationwide.


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