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Localities Pushing Preparedness to Stem Coronavirus Outbreaks

“If someone were to become ill and they need to stay home for the duration of their illness, are there enough household supplies where no one would have to leave the house? Not everyone can afford to go out and buy a month’s worth of supplies.”

by Ben Watson, Press-Republican, Plattsburgh, N.Y. / March 6, 2020

(TNS) - City of Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read said that spreading general awareness of COVID-19, or coronavirus, especially to the more easily affected elderly population, would be a focus for the city.

“We have a lot of nursing and extended care homes, and these individuals are a vulnerable population from a health perspective, and they also are exposed to an awful lot of people,” Read said at a news conference Thursday afternoon at City Hall.

Read was joined by Clinton County Health Department Director of Health Care Services Erin Streiff as he updated the public on what the city is doing in the wake of the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak.

The city and county are also advising that individuals come up with “personal preparedness plans” for if you get sick.

“If someone were to become ill and they need to stay home for the duration of their illness, are there enough household supplies where no one would have to leave the house?” Streiff said. “Not everyone can afford to go out and buy a month’s worth of supplies, but whatever is within reason will help.”

While many people are adding masks to their shopping lists amidst the rising fear of further outbreak, Streiff and the county health department are advising that they aren’t needed at the moment.

“At this time, masks aren’t recommended for the general public,” Streiff said. “There is a mask shortage, and we want to make sure that health care providers, who are the most likely to be exposed and who really desperately need them to help take care of sick people, have the supplies that they need.”

For now, Streiff said, the best precautions to take still center around good hygiene practices like washing your hands with soap and hot water and avoiding touching your face when possible.

She added that she had been hearing of hardware stores running out of dust masks and wanted to clarify that those masks will not be effective

If it does come to a time when masks are needed, surgical masks and N95 respirators will be the way to go, Streiff said.

If you begin to feel sick, both Streiff and Read encouraged individuals to stay home from work if possible.

“We have a pretty extensive sick leave for the city, and we really ask our employees to use that sick leave liberally,” Read said.

As of Thursday night, there have been 22 confirmed cases of the disease in downstate New York, as well as two cases in Quebec.

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in the North Country yet, but the close proximity to areas with COVID-19 means the disease may find its way here eventually.

“This really is about managing the infection at this point, not beating it,” Read said. “It’s certainly something we can manage.”

And if an individual begins to feel sick, there are steps to take.

‘If you feel like you’re getting a cold, keep yourself away from other people and take care of your own health,” Streiff said. “If anyone were to feel ill enough that they think they need to see a healthcare provider, we do recommend that they call first rather than just walk into a doctor’s office or emergency room.”

Read added that the city will soon be assembling an emergency response team.

NATIONAL LEVEL

Both of New York’s senators are also advocating for safeguards against COVID-19 moving forward.

In a press release Thursday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) said that he would be pushing for the COVID-19 vaccine to be covered under medicare once one becomes available.

The release said that he would call on congress to ensure that the susceptible senior demographic can get the vaccine for free, an effort he expects will garner bipartisan support.

“As the race for a safe, effective and affordable vaccine continues with major support from new federal funding, it is crucial to put the plans in place that guarantee seniors will be able to get it,” Schumer said.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) is advocating for the dedication of federal funds toward community health centers.

“Community health centers provide a wide-range of services to some of our most vulnerable populations and they ensure our communities have access to quality health care, especially in times of public health emergencies,” Gillibrand said in a release. “However, unlike hospitals, these vital health care resources have no dedicated source of federal funding for emergency preparedness.”

A release from her office said that she would push for a Community Health Center Preparedness Program which health centers would be able to use in emergencies.

Email Ben Watson:

bwatson@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @BenWatsonPR

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