LYONS — The number of COVID-19 cases in Wayne County isn’t necessarily alarming: 179 for a county of about 90,000 people.
What is worrisome: A quarter of its cases have come in the past two weeks.
That’s according to Ryan Mulhern, public health educator and public information coordinator for Wayne County Public Health. The uptick has been noted in the health department’s nearly daily Facebook postings.
“We cannot stress the following enough: Wayne County is seeing a significant increase in new daily cases,” the agency said Monday. “This is a direct result of not having enough people taking our precautions seriously, or completely disregarding them altogether. It is vital for our residents to understand that wearing a mask, avoiding large crowds or gatherings and remaining socially distant from others as often as possible is not only recommended by science and fact-based research, but they are crucial to avoiding the current surge of cases from getting out of hand. This is not a second wave of COVID-19, because we have never gotten past the first wave.”
It later says: “Stop the spread. Wear a mask! Save lives. Stay the course.”
Mulhern said health departments are being dismissed in some circles by people listening not to the medical authorities, but “to their favorite politician’s message.” He did not specify who he was referencing, but many in the healthcare community complain that President Trump is sending mixed messages by not wearing a mask in public and by hosting large gatherings where masks and social distancing were not required or followed.
Additionally, as the state begins to reopen businesses, including restaurants, many are taking that as a message that it’s not a threat anymore, Mulhern said. The reality is that New York state’s numbers have decreased significantly because of the precautions the majority have been taking during the pandemic.
“It seems to be that people are simultaneously putting public health through a political filter and that the science is changing, and the propensity is to disregard” the information, Mulhern said.
Indeed, the science does change. New research suggests the coronavirus hovers in the air for hours indoors, in places with poor ventilation, and that people become infected as they inhale, generally in situations of prolonged exposure. The World Health Organization said it is not convinced at this point with the results of that research.
Mulhern would like to think the jump in numbers is a statistical blip, but doubts it, since the uptick has been going on for two weeks.
“We were averaging one or two cases a day, but in the last week we’re getting 4-5 cases,” he said.
And the jump in cases has nothing to do with increased testing, Mulhern insisted.
“Testing doesn’t cause transmission,” he said.
Mulhern acknowledged not everyone shares the health department’s warnings about increasing COVID-19 numbers.
Some comments on the health department’s Facebook page said the county is spreading unnecessary alarm.
Said one post: “Speak the truth! Wayne County has a population of 89,918 as of 2019. This fear mongering needs to stop. So they are saying and inciting fear in people when the reported infections are only account for 0.0016348228 of the total population. Come on, Wayne County officials. You should be sending the message GREAT JOB, Wayne County residents, for keeping this infection at bay. I wear a mask everywhere I go and wash my hands regularly. Always have and I see the majority of people doing the same. ...Wayne County officials, again, you should report the numbers and encourage people by accomplishments, not putting people down and using fear. Shame on you.”