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Franklin County declares state of emergency over rising COVID cases, hospitalizations

Masks and hand sanitizer are recommended under a state of emergency in Franklin County
Pat Bradley
Masks and hand sanitizer are recommended under a state of emergency in Franklin County

Franklin County in northern New York has declared a state of emergency through the end of the year over rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. It urges mask-wearing, social distancing, vaccination and hand hygiene. County Legislature Chair Donald Dabiew tells WAMC Franklin County is seeking help from the state after 86 residents were hospitalized in the past day.

The state of emergency gives us a lot of latitude on what we can do. The biggest thing that we're using it for is to bring awareness that we had 86 cases yesterday. That's out of control in our opinion, that's the highest number we've ever had. And we want the public and in the state to know that we need help to try to curb this. We need to work together to get this behind us.

What kind of help are you seeking?

Well, from the state, we've asked them to open back up the clinics in Potsdam and Plattsburgh at least at the very minimum, we'd prefer to have one in Franklin County, but what two thirds of our people got their vaccines from Potsdam and Plattsburgh last time and to give the booster even, it's a big demand on Franklin County staff. And we've asked for them EMTs to be able to administer some of the testing and some of the shots and that right now it's only advanced EMTs, not regular EMTs. So we know that our EMTs in Franklin County are very qualified to do it. And we think they should be able to.

Do you think there's demand for the COVID vaccine but accessibility is the problem? Or is it just that people don't want to get it?

Well, it's a little bit of both. There's some people that don't want to get it because they don't like to be told what to do. There's no doubt about that. But I think right now, because it's new, the booster, and some of that was so much of COVID coming around our area. I think a lot of people are changing their minds on that. And they're getting the shot, the vaccine shot, to try to curb away from being sicker than they could be.

What's the situation in medical facilities and hospitals there?

Well, we have a call every Monday morning. And on Monday morning, there were no hospital beds for COVID in Franklin County. They were full.

Did that happen all of a sudden? I mean, things were a couple of months ago, you know, relatively in hand.

Well, they seem like they're headed in the right direction, you know, a month ago, even but in the last three weeks or whatever, it just seems like it's been steadily 35 off, 50 on. You know, that those are numbers that we can't live with, you know, it affects some of our older and now it's affecting a lot of our younger kids. The schools are getting it, it's kind of scary.

Do you know why the North Country and particularly Franklin County have lagged other areas of the state in terms of the percentage of people who have gotten the vaccine?

No, I know, I don't understand it. I really don't. I think a lot of people think is not going to hit them, you know, it's never going to hit me.

I spoke with Sarah Granquist, who's in the public health arm of Franklin County. And this was a few days before Thanksgiving, and she was really raising the same concern that you have now about, you know, a low vaccination rate and higher COVID cases. So now we've got the new variant, which has been confirmed to be in New York State. What are your fears about the next couple of weeks?

That's part of the reason we did the state of emergency. We wish people would just social distance and wear their mask and just try to curb this as best we can and not get any worse than we are now. I mean, this it was quite a shock yesterday to have 86 new people. And I don't know what the next few weeks are going to be. I'd like to be able to predict but I really can't. I'm hoping that it goes down. But I'm hoping this is just a spike from Thanksgiving and maybe it'll go down from there. I'm not I'm not really sure.

Are masks required under the state of emergency or just recommended?

Just recommended and all those things are recommended. There's no requirements. I'd say under the state of emergency that we declared it's mainly if things get worse, we could do something if we had to but you know the businesses in Franklin County and things have suffered enough and we don't want to put them through more if we don't have to.

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.
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