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Schuyler: ‘Proud’ of staff during COVID-19 pandemic

Christine Schuyler

MAYVILLE – Efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic have been a 24/7 battle for local health officials.

Christine Schuyler, public health director, provided an update on the coronavirus recently during a meeting of the Chautauqua County Board of Health.

“I’m very proud of our staff,” Schuyler told the board. “Very, very appreciative of all of the work they are putting in. This is a seven-day-a-week operation.”

“We have seen cases of all ages, all walks of life,” Schuyler said. “Fortunately, most people have not been super ill with this. We have had four deaths. As is the case across the state, across the nation, those with underlying health conditions seem to be at the highest risk of suffering more ill consequences of the virus and developing more complications, and that’s what we’ve seen in our county as well.”

The board discussed a range of issues related to the virus, including a mandate from Gov. Andrew Cuomo requiring all nursing homes in New York state to test employees twice a week. At issue is the availability of tests – with hundreds of employees at nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the county.

No one residing in a local nursing home has tested positive for COVID-19. An employee at a Westfield facility did come down with the virus, but a test of every employee and resident all came back negative.

Schuyler noted that because nursing homes were closed off to the public at an early stage, the only way the virus will get in at this point is through an employee.

Andrew O’Brien, county Board of Health member, asked the public health director if she thought results for COVID-19 tests can be turned around quicker by laboratories.

“With this kind of volume I would think it’s going to get slower,” Schuyler responded, noting that some test results were coming back in 24 to 48 hours, but with an increase in demand, results are now taking four to five days.

Dr. Robert Berke, county physician, said machines used to test samples were not designed to be run 24 hours a day. “They are pushing these machines to the limit,” he said. “They are not made in the United State, with parts from other parts of the world.”

Berke said some locations, including UPMC, have tests with results that can come back within 45 minutes. However, he said there are limits to the number of tests that can be done in one day.

“The supply chain is very limited,” Berke said.

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