County health commissioner gives COVID-19 update

A screenshot of the online video chat meeting the Chautauqua County Legislature held Wednesday. Of the 19 members, 11 joined via video chat while the other members attended by phone. Photo by Dennis Phillips.

“The virus is here,” are a few of the words the county public health director shared with the Chautauqua County Legislature about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, Wednesday.

Christine Schuyler, Chautauqua County public health director and commissioner of social services, provided an update on the virus in Chautauqua County to the legislators during their monthly voting session meeting that was held online via video chat and by phone.

“I firmly believe COVID-19 is at the level of community spread,” she said.

Schuyler said the virus is here in the county and will spread at a “rampant rate” if people don’t adhere to the strategies of staying home, practicing social distancing and washing their hands frequently for at least 20 seconds.

So far three county residents have tested positive for the coronavirus, with 11 people in mandatory quarantine, 21 in precautionary quarantine and 52 in mandatory isolation.

Schuyler said there has been a lot of questions about testing for COVID-19 in the county. She said the county is experiencing a shortage of test, of which there is a nationwide shortage.

She added health care officials are prioritizing those who get tested based on risk factors and the severity of symptoms. She said health care providers are making the decision on who gets tested.

Schuyler said hopefully next week county officials will hear more information about possibly acquiring a new test that will determine if someone is infected in about 45 minutes. At this point, test results take several days to be determine at a centralized state lab.

“I’m hoping to hear next week if that is a viable option in the county,” she said.

The county Health and Human Services Department is not notified of every COVID-19 test in the county, Schuyler said. She has requested that medical facilities notify county officials when they do administer a test.

“We are getting several negative (test) results back as well,” she said.

Schuyler said there is a shortage of personal protective equipment for the county’s Emergency Services Department. She said John Griffith, county emergency services director, has applied for new supplies of personal protective equipment from several agencies.

Schuyler said one local company has started the production of face shields, which will be able to supply Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties.

Schuyler said county workers are being screened for the coronavirus on a daily basis, whether they are working in a county facility or remotely. She said before each shift employees at the county jail are being screened, which includes a temperature reading. She said the county’s nursing staff is also being tested regularly. She added anyone who develops symptoms is being sent home from work.

Christine Starks, D-Fredonia, thanked Schuyler and her staff for the work they’re doing to try and keep people healthy and educated about the coronavirus.

“Words are not enough,” Starks said.


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