There is no government mandate this time, but both Broome and Tioga counties are included in an “orange zone” for counties at high risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
Broome and Tioga are among 10 New York state counties in designated orange zones based on a map from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of cases of COVID-19 has been on the rise generally in the past month as newer and more virulent strains become prevalent, but the incidence is high enough in some counties that they are considered at greater risk of spread.
The Broome County Health Department reported 677 new confirmed cases of the virus in the past five days, with 31 people hospitalized as of Friday.
The county’s positivity rate — a 7-day rolling average of people who tested positive — is 9.5%, according to the state Health Department.
Tioga County’s positivity rate is 9.8%, while the average for counties in the Southern Tier region is 7.7%.
The CDC recommends people in high-risk counties wear facemasks, and that will be a matter of personal responsibility, said Broome County Health Department Director Mary McFadden.
“We are encouraging people to take appropriate mitigation measures, like wearing masks when around a lot of people,” she said. “With the holidays coming, we need to make sure people are vaccinated. People need to do the right thing. We all know what we need to do to mitigate this virus.”
The latest subvariants appear to be much more contagious, but not as serious as previous COVID-19 variants, McFadden said.
Tioga County is focusing less on the total number of cases and more on people who end up in the hospital, said Public Health Educator Kylie Holochak.
“Our numbers are related to lab-confirmed tests. The large number of at-home tests makes it difficult to capture an accurate picture,” Holochak said. “We focus more on hospitalizations, looking at the severity of cases.”
At this stage of the pandemic, masking and taking other precautions should be a matter of individual preference, she added.
“Throughout the entire pandemic, we’ve tried to focus on those with health conditions,” Holochak said. “It’s a matter of personal responsibility at this point.”
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