Warren County: Three events largely responsible for COVID-19 case spike

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WARREN COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – On July 6, Warren County Health Services reported six active COVID-19 cases, on one of a string of days where the number of recoveries (on that day, five) outweighed the count of new cases (just one).

The three weeks since then have been long and complicated, and the numbers speak for themselves.

On Tuesday, the active case number was at 40 active coronavirus cases among Warren County residents – one of whom became the first confirmed county case of the virus’ highly-contagious delta variant. By the time the variant showed up, it wasn’t much of a surprise.

“The public health people suspected that something was going on, because we were seeing spread,” said county communications director Don Lehman on Tuesday. “We went from feeling pretty good about everything in mid-to-late June, to all of a sudden here we are again.”

A three-pronged problem

Lehman said that the bloom in new cases came down in large part to a trio of recent events, which collectively make up around three-quarters of the county case total.

Those events include an “inter-church gathering” in Washington County; another gathering in northern Warren County; and a recent case outbreak at a county nursing home.

The church gathering was the subject of a county-wide announcement last week, as Warren, Washington and Saratoga county health departments all asked anyone who attended a multi-day event to get tested for coronavirus.

As of that sending, the gathering had already been deemed responsible for over a dozen cases.

The event between parishes was identified by Warren County as taking place between July 10-17 at a location off Burgoyne Avenue in the town of Kingsbury.

The counties did not release the names of the churches involved.

Mount Zion Church in Gansevoort listed an event taking place during the same dates and along the same road. The church did not return a call from News 10 ABC seeking comment on Tuesday.

“There was some close contact in places, but it spread like wildfire, almost, through the gathering,” Lehman said.

That wasn’t the site of the county’s first delta variant case, though. Instead, that one came from a “social religious gathering” further north in the county.

Lehman said that as of Tuesday, that gathering had led to five confirmed cases on its own, as well as some among Essex County residents.

As for the third part of the issue, Lehman couldn’t disclose what nursing home was facing its own outbreak, but said that the county was fairly certain that an unvaccinated employee there had been responsible for coronavirus getting in.

Now that it’s there, both staff and residents have been infected. Lehman didn’t have exact numbers on how many, but one of each were among the five new cases the county confirmed on Tuesday.

“They’ve been working diligently to get it under control,” he said. “Obviously we never want it in nursing homes, it’s a bad situation, but the area has a pretty good vaccination rate, so hopefully it gets under control there.”

Vaccines as important as ever

Lehman said that, although the spike isn’t what anybody wants, he’s grateful it’s not bigger, especially as the region sees a busy tourist season in areas like Lake George and the southern Adirondacks.

“The fact that we don’t have more cases tells you pretty well that vaccines work pretty well.”

At this point, close to 80% of Warren County residents have gotten fully vaccinated against coronavirus, according to county numbers.

They’ve had long enough to do so that sites like the state-run coronavirus vaccine site in Queensbury have shut down. The state vacated the former Sears space at the Aviation Mall after completing doses on Monday.

“We ask everyone to be very cautious, particularly around those who have traveled out of state and those who aren’t vaccinated,” said Warren County Health Services Director Ginelle Jones in a release on Tuesday. “We continue to recommend that all who are eligible get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

In the meantime, Warren County’s own efforts to close the vaccination gap have taken the health services department to further outlying areas. Last Friday night, a small clinic in Brant Lake saw six people.

That may not sound like a lot, but little clinics like that help to get a few people who may not have had the transport options to get them to Queensbury, or another larger clinic.

The county is also using popular events as a way to make getting a vaccine more convenient. On Wednesday evenings, they’ve seen a few takers a week at Glens Falls’ Take a Bite food festival.

“It’s in line with what we see in other counties,” Lehman said. “People go where the crowds are.”

As for the outbreak, Lehman said that the church situation seems to be under control as far as contact tracing goes.

“By now, I think you’d know if you had COVID.”

Washington County Public Health Director Kathy Jo McIntyre said in a phone call that she was grateful for the collaborative effort between the three counties affected. Her county had 10 active coronavirus cases as of Tuesday.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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