Written by Alina Walentowicz in The Sun Community News on March 13, 2020
PLATTSBURGH | Combatting coronavirus has been declared a national emergency by President Donald Trump.
Following suit with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s intensive efforts to minimize the spread of the virus throughout New York State, SUNY/CUNY classes are moving online through “distance learning” for the remainder of the 2020 spring semester—including SUNY Plattsburgh.
The City of Plattsburgh has formally declared a “local state of emergency”, putting into place processes and procedures concerning safety measures for both city employees and the general public.
Steps some perhaps considered overly cautious at first, are now leading a trend of local and regional closures.
Cancellations throughout the community
UVM-CVPH has cancelled non-essential external events taking place in affiliation with the hospital.
State and regional sporting events have also been cancelled or postponed as a number of area schools consider the potential for short- or long-term closure.
County jails, like many nursing homes, are banning visitations.
Public entities, businesses, and institutions say they are making these preparations in the interest of setting an example throughout the state.
In an effort to dispel recent rumors, a number of local and state officials and community leaders have hosted press events to support counties in distributing the latest information on personal health measures for individuals and groups.
Right now, priorities are containment and mitigation; this means following the spread of the virus throughout the state and taking steps to slow it down.
City of Plattsburgh, Essex county declare “local state of emergency”
Starting March 16 at 8am, new city policies will be in place to promote safety measures when it comes to maintaining personal health and hygiene.
The Local Emergency Order can be summarized through the following:
- 20 people is the maximum for any group gathering in a city-owned public space.
- Department staff will encourage “social distancing” and minimize face-to-face interactions.
- Public facilities will be cleaned daily, and staff must wash hands appropriately.
- First-responders will develop consistent safety procedures in tandem with the local hospital.
- Non-essential interactions in nursing homes or assisted living centers, as well as other “areas of concentrated public attendance”, should be avoided.
- At this time, any formerly planned event utilizing city facilities is canceled or postponed.
Officials hope these efforts will delay the peak of infections to alleviate the breadth and density of the virus, thereby minimizing the speed and rate of transference. Mayor Read says these safety procedures will remain in place for the city as long as necessary.
Read and current Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau issued a joint statement on behalf of their river-sharing municipalities, saying, “This Executive Order is not designed to limit the necessary work of municipal government. However, the use of technologies like email, the postal service, telephone, pdf document exchange, online billpay, drop-boxes, YouTube and Skype meetings, and other technologies will allow the minimization of the rate of virus infection.”
Self-quarantine is advised for a period of 14 days for individuals having recently traveled to or from a “hot spot” country. Officials support the wisdom in collecting enough basic supplies to last a two-week time frame; stockpiling, however, is not encouraged.
Congresswoman weighs in on public health communications
Congressional representatives want to be sure reliable, official information is being distributed to the public in what Rep. Elise Stefanik recently called “times of uncertainty” in an exclusive interview with Sun Community News.
She says evolving negotiations are taking place in the legislative sphere to support seniors and programs surrounding nutrition and health for families who will undoubtedly face challenges when dealing with the socioeconomic impacts of the virus.
Testing remains a top concern for New York, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced that New York State will partner with 28 private labs with testing capabilities creating the ability to provide up to 6,000 tests per day.
“Overwhelmingly we’ve passed what will be an $8 million relief package to ensure that adequate funding is given to the states for test supplies and testing capabilities,” said Stefanik.
“The administration announced that it will allow New York State to run coronavirus tests in labs approved by the state, not just approved by the feds; that gives us much more flexibility to get these tests run in a timely fashion.”
Key takeaways for individuals and groups
No known cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed by the Clinton County Health Department (CCHD) so far in the wake of these emergency steps. Four individuals have been tested in the county so far, all negative.
Officials say there is no need for panic; residents should call their doctor’s office first when evaluating symptoms, rather than heading directly to an already overloaded emergency room.
Entities such as UVM-CVPH and SUNY Plattsburgh have the ability to offer testing, but tests and equipment are in limited supply at this time and should only be administered to individuals meeting testing criteria.
With the governor banning events bigger than 500 persons, households and leaders are encouraged to take time to plan and put proper procedures in place for at-risk family members, should the virus find its way to Clinton County.
Keith Collins, MD from UVM-CVPH said during the recent press conference that young, healthy individuals who contract this virus will likely not need to be hospitalized, and could even risk infection by visiting the hospital unnecessarily. “There have been over 18,000 deaths in the United States this year from influenza […] I want people to keep in perspective that you are more likely to get influenza than you are to get COVID-19. The other thing I want people to keep in mind is testing is not treatment […] there is no known treatment right now for COVID-19 other than supportive treatment.”
Stefanik recently tweeted that “NY-21 has one of the largest constituencies of seniors in the country”—it is acknowledged by CDC that older adults and those experiencing chronic illnesses are at greater risk of incurring the infection.
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