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Upstate NY Officials Reacting To New COVID Guidance As Spread Continues

Composite image by Dave Lucas

Local officials are scrambling after so-called “breakthrough cases” involving the Delta variant have seen several counties in the Northeast reach levels of coronavirus spread under which the CDC recommends indoor mask use.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its guidelines on COVID-19, Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged nursing homes and schools also require mandatory vaccines for employees while extending a mandatory vaccination policy for state workers. Cuomo passed the baton to local governments as to whether to issue indoor mask mandates, urging officials to "Learn the lesson from last year. Don’t deny reality."

Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro says he doesn't find the governor's advice useful or helpful.

"Localities across the state do not have any greater authority than he does. And basically, what he said was, you know, act, act now, or things will get worse, and then basically decided to wait until things get worse."

The number of confirmed cases in Dutchess is nearing 30,000 overall, with 282 active cases currently being monitored by county health officials. Seven people are hospitalized and the total number of deaths stands at 447 since the pandemic began.

Democratic Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said Tuesday there had been 49 new positive cases identified since Monday.  There are now 178 active cases in the county, up from 144 Monday. Nine people are hospitalized and the death toll for Albany County stands at 388 since the outbreak began.

Democratic Congressman Paul Tonko represents Albany County within the 20th district:  "I think there is every need for us to respond with a scientific approach in mind, whether that's mask wearing, or social distancing. And hopefully, you know, we can, with the cooperation of the systems across the country, and the public, we can nail this before it becomes another huge headache for our economy."

Again, Molinaro:   "We have something today we didn't have a year ago, and that is the weapon to respond the vaccines we know slow the transmission, prevent some instances of transmission and reduce the severity of the virus. And we encourage people to choose to be vaccinated."

19th district Congressman Antonio Delgado, also a Democrat, says 99% of people dying from COVID now have not yet been vaccinated.

"The Delta variant is more contagious than what we've experienced in other versions. It's spreading. And we are still learning what the impacts it can have on our communities, on different demographics. What we can do is get out in front of that with vaccinations. And so please consult with your doctors, consult with your with your health professionals. You know, make sure that you do what you can to take this virus seriously."

Sullivan County Public Health Director Nancy McGraw spoke with WAMC Tuesday about the state of the pandemic after urging mask-use a day earlier:

“I’m disappointed and discouraged because the pandemic has been so politicized at all levels of government in this country from the very beginning. I think that’s why we’re at where we’re at with this pandemic,” she said.

Governor Cuomo is urging companies to require vaccines for their employees. He’s also urging small businesses to welcome only vaccinated customers, and is asking schools to consider another CDC recommendation, reinstating mask mandates for teachers and students.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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