Written by Cara Chapman in the Press-Republican on May 5, 2020
PLATTSBURGH — Public health officials from several counties shared updates on the response to COVID-19 and input on the path toward gradually reopening the North Country in the first of Rep. Elise Stefanik’s working group listening sessions Monday morning.
Jefferson, Herkimer, Essex, Hamilton, Lewis and Washington counties were represented in the conference call.
Noted challenges included making sure all county residents were in compliance, constantly changing directives and test supply numbers, given that asymptomatic people and essential workers are also now being tested in some areas.
The officials said they would like to see guidance on summer residents and campers as well as how to safely approach each type of business as it reopens.
The public health departments have largely been focused on contact tracing and coordinating with other counties in their Regional Economic Development Council regions, aligning themselves with how Gov. Andrew Cuomo has broken down the state for a regional approach.
The North Country REDC encompasses Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence and Hamilton counties.
Those counties are working together to share data as part of a dashboard to measure the impact of COVID-19, Essex County Director of Public Health Linda Beers said.
Public health workers have been on the front lines to push quarantines and work with everyone who tests positive for COVID-19, Beers said.
“I like to say in Essex County we wrap our people in care,” she said.
“Everybody who’s in isolation or mandatory quarantine gets a visit every single day by somebody.”
It is mostly nurses that call on or see these people to ensure they are healthy and do not need anything, she said.
Beers said contact tracing has been in full force since day one.
“We have been to every house, we have issued every quarantine, be it isolation, mandatory or precautionary quarantine.”
Beers has been working with the state and her county’s nursing homes to get all employees and residents tested.
She said she was thrilled at the opportunity, but cautioned the state that testing was the easy part.
“The back end is where it gets tricky, right, because if we identify then all the work begins for the health department where we’re doing all the quarantines and we’re going back out and doing it.”
In Zoom calls, the seven counties in the North Country REDC region have discussed things that the health department can control, such as campgrounds, Beers said.
“As far as for us specifically in Essex, what about restaurants and lodging and tourism? We’ve got many, many questions and concerns from our partners.”
She said they have collectively come up with some solutions, such as spacing out tables, masking employees, wiping down surfaces and using paper menus.
Coming together as a region, Beers added, allows for the opportunity to work together and share as well as adopt best practices.
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