From the Editor, 8/17/21
Chemung County has been deemed, “high risk of transmission,” by the Centers for Disease Control. Local health officials are speaking out about how that new designation changes public health precautions and recommendations. With the city of Elmira as the main population center of the county, it seems that other Southern Tier cities like Corning and Hornell will soon earn the same designation.
In Steuben County, home to both Hornell and Corning, county officials will begin enforcing a mask requirement in all county buildings beginning today. That move followed Chemung County’s re-instituting a mandatory mask in all county buildings one week ago. As of early Tuesday morning, Allegany County has no mandates for masking in county buildings.
To the north major population centers are adopting the same public health measure while also seeing hundreds of new cases per day. In Monroe County, home to Rochester NY, the current positivity rate for Covid-19 infections is 3.3% and that rate increases as you move west into the Buffalo/Niagara Falls area to 4%.
In Cattaraugus County, to our immediate west, the positivity rate is similar to that of most major WNY urban counties, currently 3.3%. Last week the county announced its 110th dead from Covid-19. Officials in that county have not announced any public mask requirements. To give some barometer of the public sentiment in Cattaraugus County, a group of parents, including one town supervisor, have publicly protested plans to require masks in schools.
Looking south of Allegany County, just across that very thin state border, Potter County has been designated “Extremely High Risk,” one of only four counties in the state of Pennsylvannia. That very sparsely populated county has seen over 15 confirmed cases over that last week and has a 27% vaccination rate among adults. Potter county has not issued any mask requirements as of this reporting.
After a survey of the counties around Allegany, we are being surrounded, in several respects. The world of everyone wearing masks in public is returning from the east. Virus infection rates are increasing all around us and businesses are beginning to scramble to prepare for whatever is next. Having the lowest vaccination rate in New York State doesn’t give much confidence as we enter colder weather where viruses like Covid-19 tend to thrive.
If they aren’t planning on doing so today, Allegany County officials should inform the public that masks will be required on public property and strongly recommend to the public to wear a face covering in crowded indoor settings. This will provide guidance to small businesses and government agencies who are operating without that clarity. Allegany County doesn’t want to be the beacon of low vaccination rates and public aversion to face masks moving into the unknown. Regardless of what your professional medical opinion is on these public health measures is, we all can agree that is bad for our economy.
The most recent data from the Allegany County Health Department just arrived, providing some empirical support and justification to this argument: