ALLEGANY — Cattaraugus County’s public health director said Monday he was “a little shocked” when the federal Centers for Disease Control announced last week it was lifting the mask and social-distancing recommendation for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that state requirements would reflect the new CDC mask recommendations for those who are vaccinated, beginning Wednesday. Masks will still be required on public transportation, nursing homes, schools, correctional facilities and healthcare facilities, the governor said.
Dr. Kevin D. Watkins said the county office buildings would “follow New York state guidance as closely as possible for vaccinated individuals.”
Watkins also pointed out that individual businesses may require everyone to wear masks — whether or not employees are vaccinated. Some businesses and venues may require proof of vaccination.
The nation may be nearing 60% of all adults being vaccinated with at least one dose, but in Cattaraugus County, 45.3% of adults have received at least one dose, Watkins pointed out.
That is less than the 75%-80% vaccination level federal health officials had thought would be necessary for herd immunity.
How do you know if someone is vaccinated?
“It will be an honor code,” Watkins said. “You assume people will still wear masks if they are unvaccinated. The ideal thing would be for everyone to get vaccinated and we can all be protected against the virus.”
Watkins said he will follow his own recommendation and continue to wear a mask “because you don’t know who has been vaccinated. Quite a few people are still not vaccinated.”
Residents should keep in mind that “even if you are fully vaccinated, you can still contract the virus. Most will not have severe complications and hospitalizations are minimal,” Watkins said. “You should keep other people in mind and get vaccinated.”
A vaccinated person has a minimal chance of contracting COVID-19 or passing it to an unvaccinated person, health experts have reported.
“The light at the end of the tunnel is getting bigger,” Watkins said. “I hope we’re out of the tunnel soon.”
Also on Monday, more than 250 students and other area residents received COVID-19 vaccinations at a clinic at the Allegany-Limestone Middle and High school gymnasium Monday.
The Cattaraugus County Health Department partnered with school districts to vaccinate students as young as 12 with the Pfizer vaccine after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use for youths between Age 12 and 15.
About 230 students and other residents were registered to receive their first COVID-19 vaccine dose at the Allegany-Limestone clinic. Another 20 or more people walked in without an appointment.
Allegany-Limestone District Superintendent Anthony Giannicchi said the district used its social media and word-of-mouth to publicize the school clinic which was opened to the public.
Some students from Southern Tier Catholic School and a number of college students who have returned home to the area joined Allegany-Limestone students in getting their first dose of the vaccine, Giannicchi said.
Because of the large number of students and others who registered, another vaccination station was set up to make everything go smoothly.
“The Cattaraugus County Health Department has done a great job coming in here and setting up for the vaccinations,” the superintendent said. He expects to have another round of vaccinations when the vaccine is approved for emergency use for those children under age 12.
Watkins said 27,832 county residents have had at least one dose of the vaccine — 45.7% of the 18 and older population and 36.2% of the entire population.
There have been 23,990 people who have completed their vaccine series, Watkins said.
The daily positivity in the county on Monday was 4.8%, the seven-day rolling average was 2.9% and the 14-day average 3%.
Five more school districts have scheduled COVID-19 clinics with the health department. The clinics are:
• Wednesday, 2:40 to 5 p.m., Pioneer High School Gym.
• Thursday, 3 to 5 p.m., Franklinville Jr./Sr. High School Gym.
• Friday, 3:10 to 4:30 p.m., Ellicottville High School Gym.
• May 24, 2:30 to 4 p.m., Salamanca Senior High School Gym.
• May 25, 3:15 to 5:15 p.m., Hinsdale Central School Gym.
The health department, which has faced a declining demand for the vaccine in recent weeks, will vaccinate residents who cannot come to the vaccination site in their homes. Arrangements can be made through the Vaccine Call Center.
Watkins said 23,695 residents have completed their vaccine series and 27,530 people have had at least one vaccine dose. That is 45.3% of the 18 and older population with at least one vaccine dose and 35.8% of the entire population with at least one vaccine dose.
Vaccination registration and appointments for people age 18 and older can be made through the county’s website: www.cattco.org/covid-vacc-info or through the county’s Vaccine Hotline at (716) 701-3777.
To register for a free COVID-19 diagnostic test through the county health department, go online to:
The health department on Monday reported an 88-year-old male was the 103rd COVID-19 death of county residents. He developed respiratory failure he was unable to overcome his illness.
There were 11 new cases announced Monday — six women and five men. There have now been 5,632 residents diagnosed with COVID-19.
The health department is following 129 active cases and 777 in contact quarantine. There are 14 people in the hospital with COVID-19.
The southeast part of the county reported four new cases and now stands at 3,028 cases. There were also four new cases in the northeast which now has 1,074 cases. The northwest had two new cases for a total of 680 cases and the southwest had one new case for a total of 850 cases.