OLEAN — A total of 123 students in 11 Cattaraugus County school districts tested positive for COVID-19 in the first two weeks of the 2021-22 school year.

The number of students testing positive was reported by Cattaraugus County’s public health director, Dr. Kevin D. Watkins, on Thursday in response to a request from the Olean Times Herald.

No breakdown by school was immediately available, nor were the number of students quarantined after exposure to someone testing positive for COVID-19.

On Monday, Watkins said the number of students who tested positive this school year was in the dozens.

The Student Report Card feature on the state Department of Health’s website that details student and teacher COVID-19 cases detected in schools has been down for updating and is not expected to go live again until Sept. 27.

Watkins said the 19 and under age group has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the county at 1,224, or 17.9% of the total 6,833 cases.

Health department staff are trying to determine how many of the students in county schools have been vaccinated. Schools are providing data on staff and teacher vaccinations. Initial student vaccinations were around one in every five students, although it may have increased over the summer months.

Watkins said he was glad that at least one vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine, is moving toward an application to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use for its vaccine in children ages 5-11. The Moderna vaccine is also in child trials. If approved, it would mean students younger than age 12 would also have the opportunity to be vaccinated, he said.

“We are happy to see that the data that Pfizer has released now shows their vaccine safe for children ages 5-11,” Watkins said. ”It hasn’t been peer reviewed yet or reviewed by the FDA. We’ll have to wait and see what the FDA says.”

Watkins said that if approved, “It will really make an impact to prevent the number of cases we are seeing in our community. This young population has really taken the brunt of the Delta variant. There are quite a few infected with the virus and some are hospitalized.”

Watkins said the health department is already preparing for administering COVID-19 booster shots when they are approved. The Pfizer vaccine is on track for approval as a booster for people age 65 and older and for people with underlying health conditions.

Daily COVID update

The health department reported 52 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday. “It’s still on the incline,” Watkins said of the number of cases. “I had hoped it would plateau by now.”

The new cases, Watkins said, are almost all people who are unvaccinated. Under 50% of the entire county population are vaccinated and about 57% of those age 18 and older have at least one dose of vaccine.

When the health department notifies someone that they have tested positive for COVID, they are now recommending people ask their physician for a prescription for monoclonal antibodies.

“I hope this will help reduce the mortality rate,” Watkins said.

Two more county residents died of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths since April 2020 to 118.

“As the virus is taking a turn for the worse with the Delta variant, it is keeping the hospital very busy,” Watkins said.

The monoclonal antibodies are infused at Olean General Hospital. “It helps the unvaccinated by reducing fatigue and reducing fever,” he said. “It can make a person feel better very quickly.”

The antibodies must be administered within 10 days of infection.

The health department is following 211 active cases, including 24 who are hospitalized. There are also 723 residents in contact quarantine.

There have now been 3,447 cases of COVID-19 reported in the southeast part of the county, 1,270 inn the northeast, 1,202 in the southwest and 884 in the northwest. There have been 3,643 women diagnosed with the coronavirus and 3,190 men.

Watkins said 33,737 residents have completed their vaccine series and 36,871 people have received at least one vaccine dose. That’s 57.7% of the 18 and older population and 48% of the entire population with at least one vaccine dose.

Thursday’s positivity was 4.4%, the seven-day rolling average was 4.9% and the 14-day average was 5.8%.

To register for a free COVID-19 diagnostic test through the county health department, go online to:

Appointments for vaccinations can be made through the Cattaraugus County website by visiting: https://www.cattco.org/covid-vacc-info or call the COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at (716) 701-3777.

Watkins said the county’s daily tracker at https://cattaraugus-county-coronavirus-response-cattco.hub.arcgis.com/ provides local COVID-19 data.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)

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