New York’s Southern Tier hit by COVID-19 outbreak after gradual begin


BINGHAMTON – While New York’s Southern Tier dodged its worst coronavirus outbreak this spring and summer, the fall start was far worse.

If counties spanning the New York border with Pennsylvania were states, many would have been added to the state’s mandatory quarantine trips list, exceeding more than 10 average positive cases per 100,000 residents per day for the previous week.

New daily positive cases across the region, with a moving average of seven days, range from 40 per 100,000 residents in Chemung County, where one church has been identified as a source of super-disseminators, to seven in Chautauqua.

Six of New York’s ten most heavily infected boroughs are in or adjacent to the Southern Plain. The numbers represent a notable reversal for a region that, due to its low infection rate, was one of the first to abandon the initial restrictions put in place when the virus first spread in New York.

“The clusters generate the new cases proportionally, because that is exactly what clusters do,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo in a COVID briefing on Sunday.

Southern tier cases surpass the rest of the state

495 new cases were reported in Broome County between October 4 and October 11. 237 reported in Chemung; 156 in Steuben; and 71 in Tioga, according to state figures, some of the highest sums since the first virus outbreak in March.

Recent positive virus trends in the Tier region are outpacing those in higher density regions like New York City, Albany and Rochester counties, as well as much of the rest of the state, where the virus has been largely kept in check.

Cuomo warned of the aftermath of the recent outbreaks.

“We know what’s going to happen,” said Cuomo on Sunday. “People get the virus, people get sick, people go to the hospital, people die. That’s the way.”

Counties with high cases per 100,000 inhabitants on a moving average of seven days include Chemung, 285; Broome, 269; Rockland, 215; Cortland and Steuben, both at 164; Tioga, 147; Orange, 116; and Schuyler, 90. “

As a region, the Southern Tier had the highest infection rate with 23.8 per 100,000 inhabitants, three times the national average, followed by Mid-Hudson with 11 and Central New York with 7.3 according to New York data.

“The numbers are pretty striking,” said Bill Hammond, senior health policy fellow at the Empire Center in Albany. “It’s unique in the state. It’s got a harder time than March and April.”

On Monday, the Tompkins County Health Department recorded the first death of a county resident.

“The person was admitted to Cayuga Medical Center on October 6 and died on October 12 of complications related to the disease,” said Samantha Hillson of the Department of Health in a press release. “The person was admitted to Cayuga Medical Center on October 6th and died on October 12th of complications related to the disease.”

Tompkins County has the lowest infection rate of all Southern Tier Counties. Two out of 8,475 tested positive on Sunday.

Positive test rate also higher than in the rest of the state

Brian Haarer, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Microbiology, works in a laboratory at the State University of New York's Upstate Medical University that runs COVID-19 pooled surveillance tests for all SUNY schools and a variety of other colleges across the state.  Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020.

Positive results for individual counties in rival states such as Utah and Idaho, where some of the worst outbreaks in the nation are now occurring.

Sunday’s results continued to show high positive rates over the number tested: 6.7%, Chemung; 5.2% Steuben; 3.4%, Tioga; and 3.1%, Broome.

Cuomo has made comparisons with other states in an attempt to put the state’s latest numbers in perspective.

New York’s test positivity rate, for example, has been around 1% for the past few days, thanks in part to the state’s strong testing plan. Even in state-identified “clusters” in the counties of Brooklyn, Queens, Rockland and Orange, the rate was 3.7% on Monday.

In other states, 10% or more of their COVID-19 tests came back positive, Cuomo noted.

“It’s not a national hot spot,” Cuomo said on a conference call Monday. “Nationwide these numbers are better than many states. Only when compared to New York do we consider it a micro-cluster. Only when you’re at 1% does 3% seem to be a problem. Most of these other states would celebrate, though.” they would have it. ” 3%. “

Late last week, New York designated part of Broome County as a “Yellow Zone” with restrictions on restaurants and public gatherings, including places of worship.

Schools in the zone can remain open as part of the two-week lock-up period, but weekly testing by students and staff is required. Binghamton University returned to all distance classes last week.

“There’s a phenomenon called pandemic fatigue,” said Hammond. “The longer it takes, the harder it is to maintain discipline.”

Health officials advise caution

The check-in point at Broome County's Mobile Covid-19 Test Site is in the St. Patrick's Church parking lot on Leroy St. in Binghamton.  An increase in Covid-19 was recently noted on the west side of Binghamton.

Health officials across the level have urged residents to take extra precautions to protect themselves from the virus by avoiding the social situation with more than four people and following physical distancing and face masking protocols.

To combat the Binghamton cluster, the state has introduced rapid test equipment at St. Partick’s Church on the West Side to complement an existing conventional test site on the Binghamton University campus.

The positive test results on Saturday were in decline in all but Steuben. Active cases in Broome County fell from an all-time high of 694 Friday, 650 Saturday to 616 Sunday. Hospital admissions decreased from a total of 13 midweek to nine.

Binghamton remained the epicenter of the virus with 192 active cases, followed by Vestal (106); City of Union, 75; Chenango City 45; Johnson City 35.

Within the last week, Broome County released 11 public health notices warning people who have been exposed to the virus.

Yellow zone explains:COVID-19 Yellow Zone: Broome County’s schools are still awaiting weekly testing guidelines

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Includes coverage by New York reporter Jon Campbell from the USA TODAY Network.

Jeff Platsky covers transportation and economics for the USA TODAY Network New York. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter: @JeffPlatsky. For full access to the latest news, subscribe or activate your digital account today.

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