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PLATTSBURGH — Local health departments say they are seeing far more cases ahead of Thanksgiving this year than what they saw during the same time period last year.

“This year we know to expect a rise in cases,” Clinton County Health Department Principal Public Health Educator Molly Flynn told the Press-Republican, “however, we are already handling about 100 more active cases than this time last year.”

She noted that last year’s numbers began to rise significantly after Thanksgiving, reaching their highest counts after the winter holidays.

COVID positivity data posted on the state Department of Health’s website show that case levels in Clinton, Essex and Franklin county reached their pandemic peaks in early to mid-January.

MORE PREPARED

Essex County Health Department Program Coordinator Andrea Whitmarsh similarly said last year’s pre-Thanksgiving case levels were a fraction of what her agency is seeing now.

“And there were many more unknowns back then,” she added, noting that Essex County had not really experienced a large influx of cases aside from the outbreak at Essex Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare in fall 2020. The cluster there infected more than 100 residents, staff and contacts of staff, and resulted in 16 resident deaths.

“We would probably all agree that we are more prepared this year to anticipate and respond to any surge that results from holiday gatherings and our communities are better protected with the availability of the vaccines and boosters,” Whitmarsh said.

VIGILANT IN PREVENTION

ECHD’s emphasis on having a Thanksgiving that’s as COVID-safe as possible is to remain vigilant in prevention.

“Get vaccinated for the first time or booster now,” Whitmarsh said. Everyone age 18 or older can receive a booster at least six months after completing a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine series or at least two months after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Resources on how and where to get vaccinated are listed on page A8.

Flynn said it is safest to celebrate Thanksgiving with immediate household members only.

“If your family or friends do plan to gather, be sure everyone in attendance is vaccinated and feeling well,” she continued. “Seat people six feet apart, open the windows and wear masks when not eating.”

Whitmarsh said those who are sick should stay home, and advised using fans or opening windows to increase ventilation.

POST-THANKSGIVING

Post-Thanksgiving, residents can help ECHD manage a potential influx in cases by monitoring their health, Whitmarsh said.

“If you develop symptoms, stay home and get tested to limit further spread,” she continued.

“Notify close contacts if you test positive for COVID so that they can begin to take additional precautions, like masking (even if vaccinated) and testing five to seven days following exposure.”

Whitmarsh added that people should answer calls from their local health departments if they reach out to conduct isolation or quarantine interviews, and provide the requested information.

TRAVEL, FOOD SAFETY

On other tips for how to have a safe and healthy Thanksgiving, Whitmarsh pointed out that the days leading up to the holiday are some of the busiest travel days of the year.

She advised allowing plenty of travel and planning for unexpected delays if the weather is bad.

“Wash your hands before preparing foods and/or sitting down to enjoy the holiday meal,” Whitmarsh continued. “Cook and maintain foods at recommended temperatures and store leftovers promptly.

“Discard any remaining leftovers after three to four days.”

More details on Thanksgiving food safety are available on CCHD’s blog: bit.ly/3oU55vl.

BY THE NUMBERS

CCHD reported 126 new cases from Friday through the weekend. As of Monday, 229 residents were in isolation and 372 were in quarantine.

Since ECHD’s last update Thursday, 64 additional cases were detected in Essex County for an active total of 122.

Franklin County saw the largest number of new cases since Thursday, with 161. On Monday, there were 269 active cases.

The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Emergency Operations Center and Health Services posted eight new cases, and reported 11 active cases Monday, three of whom were hospitalized. An additional 29 people in Akwesasne’s southern portion were in quarantine.

University of Vermont Health Network, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital Sr. Marketing and Communications Specialist Chris Blake said, as of Monday, there were 15 COVID-positive patients in the Plattsburgh facility, five of whom were in the intensive care unit.

Email Cara Chapman:

cchapman@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @PPR_carachapman

Though more prepared to handle surge than last year, health depts. still urge caution

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