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Plattsburgh looks at spike in COVID cases, city looks at testing to stay ahead of curve

Published: Nov. 2, 2020 at 6:39 PM EST
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - Mayor Colin Read and other Clinton County officials are speaking out about the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Mayor Read says in October alone, there was a 63% rise in cases in the county. The case numbers on SUNY Plattsburgh’s' campus are starting to drop back down but still, there are 50 students and staff in isolation and quarantine. The cluster first formed three weeks ago.

Alexander Enyedi, SUNY Plattsburgh’s president said: “If you are following the mapping of the trajectory of that particular curve it has a shape like this so it’s an upside-down bell curve. This is great news.”

Enyedi says anyone living off-campus has daily a check-in from the Clinton County Health Department to make sure they are following isolation and quarantine protocols. Those living on campus get a check-in from their “Quarantine Buddy,” a volunteer group made up of students and staff assigned to check in on those in quarantine and isolation. He says their job is “making sure that the students are comfortable in their environment.”

The school has ramped up testing in the last three weeks to get a better handle on active cases on campus. The city, too, says it’s ramping up testing. Starting in September, the city began testing wastewater from the treatment facility looking for evidence of COVID-19.

Jonathan Ruff, the environmental manager for the city of Plattsburgh, said, “The interpretation of this type of data is probably as much an art as it is a science right now but it does seem to be very useful as kind of a canary in a coal mine, give you a little prediction of what might be coming in a week or so.”

Ruff says the plant conducts the tests Friday, Saturday and Sunday and sends samples to a New York City Department of Environmental Protection lab. He says having this data ahead of time can help the city and county cater to potential outbreaks, and “get the word out to the public and have people perhaps exercise greater social distancing, and increase clinical testing if that’s a resource that’s available.”

The effluent testing cannot pinpoint where the positive cases are in the city, only that infected wastewater has gone into the plant.

“There is the ability to break that sampling out to different sewer sheds,” said Ruff, “but that has not been something we’ve pursued at this point in time.”

As the weather starts to chill, the city asks you to limit small gatherings to just people in your household, to continue to wear your mask and to practice 6-foot social distancing from others.

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