COVID-19 hits home up north
It is not a hoax. COVID-19 is real, and it is here. Almost half the village of Saranac Lake employees have tested positive or are quarantined.
Our North Country region has more cases than at any other time during this pandemic. We also have a higher level of percent positives than any time since mid-May, when community-wide testing started.
The region, as of Sunday, had 38 people hospitalized with COVID-19, including nine in intensive care units. We have had 55 fatalities in the North Country.
It is apparent that the western end of our region has a significantly greater incidence of infection than the eastern end. Lewis County had the worst percent positive of any of the 62 New York state counties during this time period, Essex County the third best.
For our two-county area, the marked increase we have seen since the end of October is quite apparent. Other than the Essex County nursing home outbreak in August, we have not seen this level of positives previously.
Contact tracing for Franklin County during this past week determined that almost half the positives were linked to contacts outside of the county: either visitors coming in or people traveling to other areas. One-quarter of the cases were linked to Sunmount in Tupper Lake.
We are at the point that we should assume that anyone we interact with is potentially contagious. Therefore, always wear your mask when outside your home. Try to distance yourself from others even when outside and wearing a mask. Avoid any gatherings of people, whether it be holiday dinners and parties, or small social get-togethers. Stay close to home this holiday season, avoid travel of family members, or have family members quarantine before gathering.
One of every 28 people tested this past week in Franklin and Essex counties was positive — one out of 22 in the region. Chances are, as you go about your everyday activities, you will encounter someone who is positive but does not yet know it.
There are vaccines coming, but it will not be until June or July before enough people are vaccinated to make it “safe” again. There is a light at the end of the tunnel; we will get through this, if we continue to do the right things.
So, wear your masks, socially distance from others, wash your hands frequently, and stay home this holiday season.
Rich Shapiro lives in Saranac Lake, where he is a member of the village board of trustees. The Enterprise has accepted his offer to write regular updates on regional COVID-19 statistics for the Opinion page, with graphics he develops.