North Elba, Tupper no longer COVID-19 epicenters

The number of new COVID-19 cases continues to rise locally as the statewide vaccine rollout moves forward. The towns of Tupper Lake and North Elba are no longer the epicenters of their respective counties.

The Essex County Health Department reported 67 active cases of COVID-19 countywide on Tuesday Dec. 15, 14 of those cases new since Monday.

The town of North Elba, which had the highest number of active cases in the county for some time, had 14 active cases as of Tuesday. The town of Ticonderoga has become the county’s epicenter with 28 active cases as of Tuesday, six of them new since Monday.

Franklin County Public Health reported 15 new positives on Wednesday, plus 14 residents recently deemed recovered, bringing the total number of active cases countywide to 150. Forty-three of those cases are tied to the Bare Hill Correctional Facility.

As of Tuesday, Dec. 15, there were 52 active cases of COVID-19 in the town of Tupper Lake, fewer than the 65 active cases in Malone. The number of people who are either isolated or quarantined in Tupper Lake, however, is still higher than in the county seat. At least 220 Tupper Lakers were either isolated or quarantined, compared to Malone’s 77 residents in quarantine or isolation.

Fifty-seven people were hospitalized across the North Country region Tuesday, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. That’s four more people than were hospitalized on Sunday. The North Country region has the fewest number of people hospitalized in the state.

The region had a seven-day average test positivity rate of 4.39% as of Tuesday, the third-lowest in the state. The statewide test positivity rate was 6.21% on Tuesday.

About 4,000 of New York’s critical health care professionals had received the first of two doses of the new Pfizer coronavirus vaccine as of Wednesday afternoon, according to state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. That number includes at least 10 staff members at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh, which has been designated as the North Country’s regional vaccine hub.

The state of New York, as a whole, has received 87,700 doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. The state sent CVPH 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday, some of which will be distributed to other hospitals in the region, or used to vaccinate health care workers from other hospitals in the region.

New York state is expected to receive another 80,000 doses of vaccines in the coming days, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Those doses have been earmarked for nursing home residents and staff.

Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine is expected to receive authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use by the end of this week. Provided it receives that approval, Cuomo Administration Advisor Larry Schwartz said the Moderna vaccine could arrive in New York on Dec. 22.

Under the state’s current vaccine distribution plan, the first people to be eligible for a vaccine will be essential health care workers and high-risk nursing home residents in areas where there’s a high number of cases. The next will be health care workers and nursing home residents in areas with relatively low numbers of cases.

Next to be vaccinated will be first responders; teachers, school staff and child care providers; public health workers; high-risk people and essential front line workers who have regular contact with the public. In the North Country region, CVPH will be responsible for putting together a regional plan for this second phase of vaccine distribution, according to Cuomo.

The hospital has been asked to submit this regional distribution plan to the state Department of Health by the first week of January.

Then vaccinations will open up to everyone over the age of 65 and those under the age of 65 with underlying conditions, then all other essential workers, then the general population, according to the state’s COVID vaccination program book.