To Contain Binghamton Cluster, Broome County Prepares to Deploy State Rapid Testing

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BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — Active COVID-19 cases in Broome County have tripled since Friday. There are now nearly 200 cases county-wide, with a cluster on Binghamton’s West Side.

Broome County Executive Jason Garnar gave a briefing on the spike in COVD-19 across the county Wednesday. (Jillian Forstadt/WSKG)

According to County Executive Jason Garnar, virtually all recent cases have been spread throughout the community, not only congregate care settings like jails or nursing homes.

Nor is the majority of cases driven by college students. Garnar said just 21 of the 193 active cases are Binghamton University students.

“This is an issue that is a community issue,” Garnar said. “It is very important that we understand that. Binghamton University is not causing the spread of this.”

Garnar said almost all cases in the cluster are connected to bars and restaurants on the West Side. The average age of people currently infected county-wide is 39.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state will deploy rapid testing machines to the county.  He hopes to contain the spread after 10 percent of tests for residents of the zip code 13905—which encompasses Binghamton’s West Side—came back positive.

Typically, Garnar said it takes three to four days after a person is tested before the county’s health department can begin contact tracing. During that time, there is a chance people who were exposed and not symptomatic will spread the virus.

With the rapid testing machines, which can determine results within 15 minutes, will allow health officials to begin contact tracing much sooner and potentially contain the spread.

“We can then immediately begin the contact tracing of that person. Find out where they went, find out who they came into contact, identify those close contacts and get those close contacts into quarantine,” Garnar explained. “That’s vitally important.”

There are over a thousand residents currently quarantining throughout Broome County.

Garnar said the county is pulling staff from other departments to aid in its expanding contact tracing efforts.
He said a rapid testing site will be up and running on the West Side early next week.