Cayuga County Health Director: Schools and low vax rates contribute to COVID surge | Local News | Auburn, NY |

Count Kathleen Cuddy among those in public health trying to figure out why Cayuga County and central New York are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases.

The region’s case rate is highest in New York City. According to the latest data released by Governor Kathy Hochul, the case rate in central New York is 41.50 per 100,000 population, more than double the state average of 17.46 per 100,000 population. . The CNY rate jumps to 49.08 when Onondaga County home test results are included.

Cayuga County has a high community level of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is one of 17 counties in the United States with a high community level, a metric that takes into account case rates, hospital admissions and hospital beds used.

The Cayuga County Health Department’s update on Monday was mixed. Active cases rose from 210 on Friday to 197 on Monday, but there were two COVID deaths – a man in his 80s and a woman in her 60s. Six residents are hospitalized with COVID.

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Cuddy, director of public health for Cayuga County, told the Citizen that the rise in cases began after the school holidays in February. When students returned for classes in early March, the state lifted the school mask mandate.

In a three-week period after the mandate was lifted, the Moravia School District reported 121 cases. Some districts, like Auburn, had a growing number of cases. Others have had no change in the total number of cases.

“While schools are certainly not the only place where people congregate, this is where it was most apparent because schools are so involved in testing and reporting,” Cuddy said.

But Cuddy didn’t want to point to the schools as the source of the problem. She also noted that Cayuga County has a “very low vaccination rate.” According to the state Department of Health, 59.6 percent of county residents are fully immunized — the second-lowest rate among New York’s five central counties. Cortland County has the lowest vaccination rate (57.8%), while Onondaga (71.9%) has the highest rate.

With the approval of a second booster, Cayuga County began offering these vaccines at its immunization clinics. The health department is also continuing its year-long effort to vaccinate more residents. Vaccines are offered to all eligible residents ages 5 and older, and clinics are held regularly at Fingerlakes Mall or another location in the county.

In addition to the vaccine, Cuddy reminded residents that there are other steps they can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Wearing a mask is an option. She acknowledged that there has been opposition to masks, but noted that science supports the effectiveness of face coverings. She also advised residents to stay home when sick and take a COVID test if they have symptoms.

Political journalist Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.