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Allegany Hope: Covid-19 Cases Grow, Local Breakthrough Infections


From Casey Jones, Editor of Allegany Hope, 8/26/21

EXCLUSIVE – BREAKING: New COVID-19 cases are mushrooming this week in Allegany County, NY, jumping 75 percent in four days over last week’s total and reaching the highest level since the same number for a full week ending during Memorial Day Weekend. Breakthrough cases involving individuals who previously have been vaccinated also are on the rise.

In the meantime, four out of six adjoining Allegany County counties, including one in Pennsylvania, now are at a CDC-designated High Risk of virus transmission, up from Substantial which was Allegany’s rating Tuesday.

In a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) response this afternoon to an Allegany Hope request, Public Health Director Tyler Shaw supplemented Tuesday’s FOIL response to our earlier submission, reporting seven new cases as of 4PM Monday, versus the zero originally reported as of 11AM the same day.

This brings new cases to seven each on Sunday and Monday, 12 on Tuesday, and nine yesterday, resulting in a total of 35 for the first four days of this week. This compares with the same number for the entire week ended May 29 as new positives were dropping as a Spring surge was ending.

Allegany Hope has been forced to file FOIL requests several times a week to obtain information from the county after it stopped reporting daily data over the July 4th Weekend and weekend daily statistics on February 10. It now only distributes lump sum numbers for the week, generally divided over Mondays and Tuesdays for a seven-day period ending Sundays.

We previewed the possibility of a surge last night in our report following analysis of both State Health Department and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data which is released daily for Allegany County but on different time frames than the county, making information impossible to compare other than for trends.

Counties now at high risk, as shown on the map accompanying this story and as of Tuesday, are Cattaraugus, Livingston, Steuben and Pennsylvania’s Potter County. Wyoming and Pennsylvania’s McKean County still are at Substantial Risk, as is Allegany.

Shaw said that of the new cases this week, 19 are family-related in which one family member presumably spreads the virus to other family members either in the same household or different households. The department also has had three nursing home cases.

“The best information that we can gather from our various interviews,” he said, “is individuals are likely not wearing masks or socially distancing or taking precautions around other family members or people they may be close with.

“We have also noticed that many times cases are mild and people may attribute symptoms to something else such as seasonal allergies and they do not realize they are infectious until others may have already been exposed” to the virus by them, he related.

Shaw says there have been seven breakthrough cases among 37 new positives between Saturday and yesterday. This compares with eight associated with 62 new positives between August 1 and Friday. There have been no new variants reported to the county beyond the 35 we previously detailed as of last Friday and there are no reinfections of individuals who have contracted COVID-19 previously.

The breakthroughs include one Pfizer-vaccinated this week and two previously, three Moderna this week and three before, three Johnson and Johnson this week versus two previously, and one unknown prior to this week, for a total of 15 out of 99 new cases since August 1. It is noted that Pfizer vaccines haven’t been as available in the county due to storage requirements and Johnson and Johnson’s emergency use approval is more recent than the other two vaccinations.

The director said in regard to the breakthroughs – the term identifies a positive breaking through the immunization and contracting the disease – that it is important to note that although such occurrences are uncommon, they are “not new in regard to vaccinations.”

He said “(b)reakthrough cases have been identified with other vaccines that protect against other diseases as well.

“The efficacy of a vaccine depends upon many factors to include the individual and their health condition(s).

“This is why the antibodies we form when we get the COVID-19 vaccine are studied, and the recommendations for immunocompromised individuals (now) include an additional dose in order to keep a certain level of antibodies present in order to be able to combat the virus.

“The other side are variants that decrease vaccine efficacy rates over time which is what we are trying to avoid here in Allegany County.

“With lower vaccination rates, the virus continues to spread around our communities, in turn we have a greater chance of the virus changing (mutating into variants) and that can lead to greater hospitalizations, adverse symptoms, and on occasion increased deaths,” he said.

Through yesterday, in addition to 35 new positives, which has increased active cases from 22 to 48, there now are 90 in quarantine/isolation, compared with 64 at the end of last week. Total positives since the start of the pandemic have jumped to 3,730, with 13,431 now having been quarantined/isolated.

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