Preparedness

A plan for another public health emergency

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 4/7/21

MONTICELLO, NY — Unspoken as we climb out from the current pandemic: What if this happens again?

Sullivan County, and New York counties in general, are working on plans, so if there’s …

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Preparedness

A plan for another public health emergency

Posted

MONTICELLO, NY — Unspoken as we climb out from the current pandemic: What if this happens again?

Sullivan County, and New York counties in general, are working on plans, so if there’s another deadly disease that sweeps the country, nobody will have to scramble. Lessons have been learned from COVID-19.

On Friday, April 2, Sullivan County released its Communicable Disease Emergency Plan. In it, it assumes a one-month emergency that would be re-evaluated if the situation goes on longer.

The plan lays out the steps to be taken—most importantly that an incident commander is named by the county’s emergency operations center and organizes and distributes the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

Most of the plan is devoted to the question of essential or non-essential workers.

County employees are divided into four categories (essential/worksite based, nonessential/remote capable and contracted groups divided the same way.) This designation is only with respect to a public health emergency, said county director of communications Dan Hust, and follows state criteria.

Non-essential means “not necessary for continued operations during a communicable disease outbreak.”

Essential/worksite-based employees have to be physically present to do their jobs.

There are other questions for them, such as whether or not the job be done in a different location part-time and part-time in-office.

“Remote-capable” means that the job could be done away from the office. The plan outlines the ways the IT department would assist.

Public health, the sheriff’s department and public safety, for instance, are often manned by essential workers. (Clerks, bookkeepers and so on might be an exception.) The legislators, the county attorney, the county manager (and deputy manager) and the treasurer are essential.

“Sullivan County will strive to ensure that employees are provided with their typical or contracted minimum work hours per week,” the plan adds.

Labor law notes that designations may be changed by the county.

Steps to be taken concerning PPE and cleaning products are also outlined. (Does anyone remember the lack of bleach on store shelves a year ago? The supply chain could break down again.)

And procedures relating to employees testing positive for the next disease are included.

A situation could arise, the plan says, where essential employees may need to be housed away from home to prevent the spread of disease or to protect the employee in question. The county could contract with a hotel or “an institution of higher learning” to house these employees; the incident commander is in charge of that.

Documentation of work hours and location might be necessary.

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