WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — On August 8, Jefferson County was deemed an area of “substantial transmission” for COVID-19.

This was confirmed following data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, listing Jefferson County to have over 50 cases per 100,000 residents and a seven-day rolling average of over 2%. With this transmission level in mind, officials are now calling on residents to again take precautions.

Because the state of emergency in Jefferson County was lifted on June 15, county officials no longer can mandate masks, social distancing or other mitigation techniques. However, Chairman for the Jefferson County Board of Legislators Scott Gray said that the county is strongly encouraging universal mask wearing.

“We’re not mandating anything. That’s clear at this point. What we’re doing is we’re going by the CDC’s recommendations. It is recommended that it should be universal masking for indoor settings,” Gray stated.

He noted that the biggest area of concern is the hospitalization rate. Currently, Jefferson County’s hospitalization rate is not relatively high, however, if an increase does occur, this may be a factor that leads to further mitigation strategies.

Gray also discussed how these risks will continue as colder weather returns to the region.

“People are going to start migrating back indoors after the summer that we’ve had, and outdoor activities are going to cease and give way to indoor activities. So there’s going to be a greater potential for this to continue into the fall,” he said.

As the County is also continuing to prioritize COVID vaccinations, Gray reiterated that the best mitigation tactic to receive the vaccine. Jefferson County’s current vaccination rate is one of the highest in the North Country, with 65.5% having received the first does, and 55.3% fully vaccinated.

Chairman Gray also discussed the county’s relationship with Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division. He added that the county is working with Fort Drum officials to properly communicate federal guidelines for the military installation, including the mask mandate that was reinstated on August 6. The County is acting similarly with surrounding counties.

“Jefferson County is not operating in a vacuum,” the Chairman said. “So we will work with our partners in Lewis, St. Lawrence, Oswego, all the surrounding counties, bordering Jefferson county to make sure that we have a universal approach to everything that we’re doing.”

The CDC has also designated Lewis County as an area of substantial transmission, while St. Lawrence County remains moderate. New York State is currently listed as having a high transmission risk. Full data can be found on the CDC website.