Sullivan County COVID-19 town hall

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MONTICELLO, NY --  Sullivan County officials held their third remote town hall on April 3 to answer questions about the novel coronavirus and the COVID-19 pandemic.

One questioner wanted to know who decided not to release a town-by-town breakdown of COVID cases, and the reason for the decision.

County manager Josh Potosek said it's been a collaborative decision-making process and there has been a lot of discussion about the pros and cons of releasing that town-specific information. The people weighing in on the decision are from public health, EMT, law enforcement and the legislature.

Potosek said, "Obviously a lot of counties in the Hudson Valley have chosen to release this information, and some are second-guessing releasing the information. When you look upstate, there are very few counties that are releasing town-by-town information. One county upstate said the maps really opened people's eyes to the fact that this is everywhere, but it could give a false sense on both sides.

"A large number of cases in one town or no cases in one town doesn't mean the virus isn't in that town with no cases. Because the cases are being reported by residents, it doesn't speak to where the person came into contact with and was exposed to the virus, so it really leads to a false sense of security."

Potosek said residents should just assume it's everywhere and follow the state and federal guidelines.

Another person asked about the possibility of shortages of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin.

Nancy McGraw, director of public health, responded. "We've heard that there may be some concern of shortages statewide of these drugs. Locally, it's not a problem currently. We're keeping a close eye on it with the hospital to see if they have concerns about a shortage. I want to reinforce that these drugs are not FDA approved in terms of treatment, but given the pandemic statewide and nationally, physicians have had to be creative.  There's research that's ongoing to try to help save lives."

Another person asked a question regarding whether summer camps are opening this year. Potosek said Sullivan County relies on the New York State Department of Health (DOH) to issue permits for summer camps, and DOH normally doesn't do that until the end of April.  "We expect, but don't have a firm answer, that they are going to at least delay issuing the permits, due to the density issue. It's difficult to operate a camp when you're trying to keep everyone six feet apart."

If DOH doesn't delay the permits, the county is looking at other options.

A question came in about the possibility of mandating grocery stores to change to a delivery-only model of service because it's impossible to maintain the six feet of separation between people in grocery stores. Potosek said the state has issued executive orders regarding how businesses must operate, including grocery stores, and the county doesn't have the authority to overrule the state.

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