Sullivan COVID-19 virtual town hall

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MONTICELLO, NY — In an effort to give citizens access to information and to ask questions, Sullivan County has been hosting a Facebook town hall series.

In the fourth virtual town hall on April 6, Robert Dufour, superintendent of BOCES, was a featured speaker. He said that all schools in the state will remain closed at least through April 29. Additionally, school budget votes have been put off until after June 1. And the school districts in the county are running a joint centralized childcare center for the children of essential workers.  

Sullivan County Public Health Director Nancy McGraw announced that there was a big jump in cases from 188 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on April 3, to 259 confirmed cases on April 6. She said 59 people have recovered from the virus and 654 people are in mandatory quarantine. Public health is supporting the new Center for Disease Control guideline that people wear cloth masks when going out in public. She said research shows that people can transmit this virus before symptoms show up.

At an earlier town hall held on Friday, April 3, one questioner wanted to know who decided not to release a town-by-town breakdown of COVID-19 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.

“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,” Potosek said.

“A large number of cases in one town or no cases in one town doesn’t mean the virus isn’t in that town. 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.”

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.

McGraw 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.”

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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