Before Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a “pause” Friday, closing nonessential businesses and ordering people to stay in their homes to slow the spread of COVID-19, Cattaraugus County’s public health director said it was time for residents to “hunker down at home.”
If there is no urgent need to go out for food or medicine, Dr. Kevin Watkins said, county residents should stay home.
“It’s the only way to mitigate this virus,” he said. “The best way to help others is to self-isolate ourselves.”
While no positive novel coronavirus test results have been reported for any county residents, Watkins said the results from 36 individuals were awaited Friday. Some test samples had been taken on Monday. The county has received 15 negative tests so far.
More than 100 people remained in mandatory quarantine, including two group homes in the county and whole families, Watkins told the Olean Times Herald. A healthcare worker at a group home was among those under quarantine.
“We are asking sheriff’s deputies to sit in front of homes under quarantine,” Watkins said. “No one should exit or enter. It will be enforced.”
He indicated the state could eventually face a shelter in place order.
The Allegany County Department of Health said it was still waiting for test results from 37 new individuals tested for COVID-19 on Tuesday. All 37 Allegany County individuals remain in isolated quarantined.
Two people have tested positive for the disease in Allegany County.
Cattaraugus County office buildings had been scheduled to remain open, but many services were curtailed or limited as more county employees were sent home under Cuomo’s directives.
Anyone entering the County Center in Little Valley, County Office Building in Olean or other county buildings will have their temperature taken. If it is 100.4 or above, they will be told to go home and call their physician, Watkins said.
The public health director urged individuals to take their own temperature twice a day. If they begin to show symptoms such as fever, sore throat or cough, people should self-isolate and call their physician.
With COVID-19 test kits in low supply, local testing has been very limited.
A greater concern for Watkins is the supply of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, first responders, doctors and others on the front lines of the coronavirus fight.
He said the COVID-19 crisis is placing a huge stress on the health department and others who have to make a face-to-face visit with those under quarantine daily.
Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties are the only counties in Western New York with no lab-confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, Watkins observed.
“It feels like we are being neglected in Western New York,” he said.
The slow response from the state and federal governments for tests and personal protective equipment was very frustrating, he added.
“They don’t seem to think our residents need to be tested,” Watkins said, stressing that the county can’t identify most people who may be infected with the virus without tests.
Cattaraugus County Office of Emergency Services is striving to get additional personnel protective equipment for all levels of the healthcare system.
“We want to make sure hospitals are prepared for the surge in novel coronavirus cases,” Watkins said.
“We have a large vulnerable population” of residents over age 60 and those with suppressed immune systems, Watkins said. That’s up to a quarter of the county’s nearly 80,000 residents.
Meanwhile, a second woman who attended a youth ski event at HoliMont from March 4-8 has tested positive for coronavirus, Watkins said. “She was symptomatic at the time she was there,” he said.
With a 14-day incubation period, Watkins said he expects anyone exposed to either women would have shown symptoms by now.
Besides HoliMont, the Essex County woman visited Mud Sweat n Gears in Ellicottville, while the woman from Ontario County was at Ellicottville Brewing Co., Dina’s and the Gin Mill.
“If they become symptomatic, they should contact their physician,” he said. “If you haven’t come down with symptoms by now, there’s a low likelihood you were infected by those individuals.”
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)