Will this year be different?

At this time last year, how Americans chose to celebrate Thanksgiving shifted the trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic for the rest of 2020.

Two weeks after Thanksgiving, Franklin County hit 100 active cases, the highest number the county had ever seen at one time. A nursing home in the northern end of the county contended with a deadly coronavirus outbreak. For the first time ever, Tupper Lake became the COVID-19 epicenter of the county, surpassing the much more populous Malone for highest number of cases. In Essex County, there was also a rapid increase in cases post-Thanksgiving.

This year, case numbers are even higher here. On Tuesday, Franklin County reported 262 active cases countywide, more than double what was reported last year post-Thanksgiving. On Monday, the Essex County Health Department reported 122 active cases countywide, nearly triple the number of cases Essex County reported post-Thanksgiving last year.

Though COVID-19 vaccines have since been authorized for use in the U.S., and in New York 90% of adults have gotten at least one vaccine dose, the highly-contagious delta variant is spreading. Rural counties across the state — where there are many people who remain unvaccinated, and where many hospitals have limited capacity for severe cases — continue to see an uptick in infections. Public health officials are again urging caution when gathering for the holidays.

Franklin County Public Health has suggested that residents reconsider large holiday gatherings, or at least take some precautions to curb the spread. Public Health Director Kathleen Strack said last week that she recommended everyone wear masks, even those who are vaccinated and not having symptoms.

Last week, Gov. Kathy Hochul warned that some communities seeing rising infection rates could face pandemic restrictions again.

“At some point if the numbers don’t start on a downward trend, we’re going to have to talk about larger protocols,” she said. She later tweeted that if the state gets “through the holidays without a spike,” she would ask the state health commissioner to relax some rules.

Nobody wants to see more pandemic restrictions come back. Nobody wants to get sick, or see anyone else get sick, either.

We hope that this year will be different than last year. We hope that New York will get through the holidays without a spike. If we can, it’ll be up to Hochul and the state’s new health commissioner, Mary Bassett, to relax the rules that remain.


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