Broome County Sees Lowest COVID-19 Rates Since November

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BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — Broome County saw its lowest COVID-19 positivity rate in months on Wednesday.

Broome County Executive Jason Garnar at a media briefing on COVID-19 last year. (Jillian Forstadt/WSKG)

County Executive Jason Garnar said that the county’s positivity rate on a seven-day rolling average is now 3.6 percent, the lowest it has been since late November.

This time last month, the county had an average positivity rate of 10 percent, or COVID-19 was detected in every one in every 10 people tested.

Although fewer people are currently testing positive, the number of people tested each day remains steady. Broome County Public Health Director Rebecca Kaufman said the low positivity rate continues even as college students return and participate in mandatory testing.

“We speak with our healthcare partners weekly and we all are seeing a decrease in demand for testing, which is a really good sign,” Kaufman said. “Also, remember that in these next few days, and already starting, Binghamton University is testing all of their students as they return to campus.”

The county reported 56 new cases of the virus on Wednesday. That’s a significant decrease from most of last month when daily new cases ranged from 100 to 245.

Garnar said he’s hopeful that, if the numbers continue to trend downward, entertainment and leisure activities will be able to reopen in the Southern Tier.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that some larger sports venues in the state can reopen with spectators starting Feb. 23.

The guidance applies only to stadiums and arenas that can seat 10,000 people or more, and those that are eligible will have to limit capacity to 10 percent.

Broome County’s minor league baseball field and minor league hockey arena are too small to meet the governor’s guidelines, but Garnar said the new rules, coupled with lower positivity rates, may pave the way for smaller venues to open.

“I really do believe that you’ll be able to watch in-person professional baseball and professional hockey in Broome County [this spring],” Garnar said. “I’m optimistic that that’s going to happen, but we need to continue to do what we’ve been doing.”

Garnar reminded residents to continue to follow COVID-19 safety measures, like wearing masks and social distancing.

The Binghamton Rumble Ponies’ 2020 season was canceled after Major League Baseball decided not to put players on its minor league teams.

The Binghamton Devils, which usually play in the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton, instead relocated to Newark, New Jersey, for the season, citing safety and health concerns. Newark is home to the hockey team’s parent club, the New Jersey Devils.

The county will continue to host a vaccine clinic at SUNY Broome, despite an ongoing shortage of vaccines. According to Kaufman, the county received 500 doses in its most recent allocation from the state, with 400 earmarked for Phase 1B essential workers and 100 for staff and clients of the Office of People With Development Disabilities.

People with qualifying co-morbidity conditions will be eligible to apply for a vaccination appointment starting Feb. 15.