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Local health officials: Still no deaths here, despite what state shows

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Franklin and Essex counties continues to rise. Discrepancies between local and state data are emerging.

Neither Essex nor Franklin County’s health department has reported a fatality related to COVID-19 since the pandemic reached this region. But the state Department of Health has continued to report one fatality in Franklin County on its statewide COVID-19 dashboard, perplexing local health officials.

Data on the state Health Department’s COVID-19 dashboard comes from a variety of sources, including hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities.

Franklin County Public Health Director Kathleen Strack told the Enterprise on Monday she believes the reported local fatality is an error.

Asked to respond to Strack — and asked what agency, specifically, reported a fatality in Franklin County to the state — the state Department of Health did not answer the questions. Department of Health Public Information Officer Jill Montag did say the data reported by the state is “reported from hospitals and other facilities in all regions of New York State” directly to the health department, through its Health Electronic Response Data System.

As of Friday, there were 12 active cases of COVID-19 in Franklin County, with eight new positive test results reported since July 24. Countywide, 130 people were either in isolation, a requirement for those who test positive, or quarantine, a precautionary measure for those who have COVID-19 symptoms or those who may have been exposed to the virus.

In Essex County, there were zero active cases as of Friday. Two new positives have been confirmed since July 23. It’s unclear how many people are in quarantine countywide. The county Health Department recently stopped publicly reporting the number of people in quarantine on a daily basis to “maintain (the department’s) response capacity in the most critical areas,” according to Essex County Health Department Public Information Officer Andrea Whitmarsh.

Since June 26, the day the North Country region entered the last phase of reopening, Essex County has seen 19 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 61 test-confirmed positives and 16 suspected cases since March, according to data from the county’s health department.

Franklin County has seen 26 new cases since June 26, for a total of 48 test-confirmed positives and 103 suspected cases since March, according to the county’s health department.

Data released on Friday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office and the state Health Department showed lower figures in Essex than the local health department has reported, and higher figures in Franklin than the local health department has reported.

As of Thursday, the state Department of Health reported 415,014 positive cases of COVID-19 statewide since March.

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