COVID cases rising sharply in Fulton County

The Associated Press/This file photo from 2020 shows COVID-19 tests that were distributed by the CDC.

JOHNSTOWN — About one out five COVID-19 tests given to local residents on Sunday and Monday was positive — giving Fulton County the highest positivity rate of any county in New York state for both days and five times the 62-county average for Sunday and Monday.

Out of 106 COVID-19 tests of Fulton County residents given on Monday, 20 tests came back positive on Tuesday, resulting in a positivity rate of 18.87%, dwarfing the 62-county average of 3.6% positivity for tests given Monday.

Results released from tests given Sunday were even worse. On Sunday, 163 COVID-19 tests were given to Fulton County, and 33 tests came back positive, resulting in a positivity rate of 20.25%.

Sunday saw the highest number of positive cases in one single day for Fulton County since May 6 when there were 35 positive tests out of 372 tests administered. Fulton County’s record-high for positive tests during the coronavirus pandemic came on Jan. 8 when there were 85 positives out of 454 tests.

By comparison, neighboring Montgomery County also saw a sharp increase in its positivity rate on Sunday, with 23 positive tests out of 211 tests given — a positivity rate of 10.90%. That upward trend continued with an additional 20 positive cases on Monday out of 152 tests given to Montgomery County residents, a positivity rate of 13.16%.

In neighboring Saratoga County, which has a population four times greater than Fulton County, the positivity rate is also climbing, but not as fast or as high as in Fulton County. On Monday, Saratoga County’s positivity rate was 7.68%, with 39 positive results out of 508 tests given. That’s up slightly from Sunday when Saratoga County had 48 tests come back positive out of 934 tests given, a positivity rate of 5.14%

On Tuesday, Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said county officials have noticed the increase.

“I saw that this morning, I check it each morning,” Stead said. “We had actually been trending lower than quite a few of the areas actually before that. It was definitely a jump, but I talked to [Fulton County Dept. of Public Health Director Laurel Headwell] briefly, and she said there was no specific trend. We haven’t seen that in a long time.”

Headwell did not return phone calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Headwell on Aug. 9 issued a warning to Fulton County residents that the COVID-19 delta variant was causing a substantial uptick in local COVID-19 cases. Headwell said the numbers in Fulton County indicated a substantial transfer of the virus and recommended all residents adhere to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines including wearing masks indoors, even for people who have been vaccinated.

Since then the 7-day weekly average COVID-19 statistics for Fulton County have shown a significant increase in the number of positive cases each week:

• Aug. 16-22 — 108 people tested positive out of 2,031 tests given.

• Aug. 8-15 — 66 people tested positive out of 1,387 tests given.

• Aug. 1-7 — 38 people tested positive out of 1,267 tests given.

• July 24-31 — 25 people tested positive out of 1,018 tests given.

The CDC has released reports indicating on average each person infected with the delta variant is likely to spread the virus to at least 7 people, compared to 3 people for the original COVID-19 strain dominant in 2020.

Face Masks

But in Fulton County, even at public meetings for local governments, few appear to be adhering to the CDC guidelines to wear masks indoors. On Tuesday night, the Gloversville Common Council returned to social distancing at their meeting with increased space between council members, with three sitting in the normal council space while three others sat at a table across the room, but did not require masks to be worn.

At the Greater Johnstown School District School Board meeting Aug. 19 only three of the board’s nine members wore masks, although a much higher rate of mask wearing was evident for the district’s scholar-athletes who were honored at the meeting.

Fulton County continues to rank dead last among the mostly rural counties of the Mohawk Valley region for rate of vaccination, with 46.2% of residents, 24,776 people, having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Tuesday.

By comparison, in Montgomery County 58.6% of residents, 28,976 people, had received at least one dose of vaccine as of Tuesday.

In Saratoga County, 68.3% of residents, 157,184 residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Statewide as of Tuesday 63.9% of residents, 12.8 million people, had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

On Tuesday, the Fulton County Dept. of Public Health made several COVID-19 related posts to its Facebook account, including one advertising an online presentation to discuss COVID-19 vaccination myths scheduled for noon today and another advertising the department’s pre-registration only COVID-19 vaccine clinic from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Thursday. To register for the COVID-19 vaccination call 518-736-5720 or access an internet link on the department’s Facebook page.

The Fulton County Dept. of Public Health also encourages people looking for COVID-19 testing to call 518-736-5720.

By Paul Wager