Columbia County released a breakdown of COVID-19 cases by municipality for the first time Friday and announced the virus had claimed three more victims in the county.
The largest concentration of cases was in Claverack, where 24 people had been diagnosed with the virus. Twenty-two of those people were in a single place: Pine Haven Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
The county Health Department announced earlier Friday two more residents of Pine Haven had died from the Coronavirus, bringing the number of victims at the nursing home to four.
A third death was reported by the Health Department later Friday. Seven people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 have so far died in the county.
Ghent, immediately to Claverack’s north, had the second largest number of cases in the county with 14, followed by the city of Hudson with 10, followed by Greenport and Kinderhook, which each had five.
All other towns in the county had four confirmed cases or less. Stuyvesant, Stockport, Austerlitz, Taghkanic and Clermont had no confirmed cases.
The county did not release any additional information about the two new deaths.
Counties in the Hudson Valley began releasing town-by-town breakdowns of COVID-19 cases in late March, and now Greene remains the only county in the region not posting these figures.
Columbia County Health Director Jack Mabb said during a virtual Town Hall event Friday he meant to post figures earlier in the crisis, but it had gotten away from him.
The Health Department would now be releasing town-by-town figures every Friday, Mabb said.
Mabb and Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett also detailed how quarantine worked in the county – and how it could be enforced.
People can be ordered to isolate or to go under either mandatory or precautionary quarantine, Mabb explained. The first group consists of people sick with the disease. The second group, those under “mandatory quarantine,” have been in contact with people confirmed to have the virus. People under “precautionary quarantine” are “kind of a contact of a contact,” Mabb said, or people who were in contact with those whose test results were pending.
As of Friday, there were 92 people under mandatory quarantine in the county and 23 under precautionary quarantine, according to the county Department of Health (DOH).
People ordered to isolate are briefly checked on by the DOH each day to monitor their health and to assure they are keeping quarantine, Mabb said, while those under mandatory quarantine are called twice a day. Though the department tried to contact people under precautionary quarantine daily, it is not always possible, and would become less feasible as their numbers climbed.
People under these orders have generally been cooperative, but a few have left their homes, Mabb said.
“We’ve had a few people who’ve violated quarantine, and as we all know…all communities are small communities, and there were people who turned them in,” he said.
In one of these instances, the Sheriff’s Office had to go to the violator’s home and “serve them papers saying they had to stay put,” Mabb said.
“I do have the legal authority to require someone to isolate if they’re positive, and I do have the authority to sit a police officer outside their door if they decide not to comply,” he added.
Sheriff Bartlett said he was the county’s point person in dealing with businesses and groups violating the New York State on PAUSE executive orders, and all complaints filed with the state were passed to him.
The last two complaints were about a hair salon – barred from operating under the executive orders – and a park, Bartlett said, adding much of the enforcement was just educating people who were violating the orders.
Columbia County EMS Coordinator P.J Keeler also revealed during the town hall that 11 percent of people on ambulance crews were out of work – either sick or quarantined.
“When that level reaches about 25 percent, we will become very concerned,” Keeler said.
Firefighters and other first responders would be recruited to work on the ambulances if enough EMS workers cannot, he added.