Coronavirus Shuts Down Putnam County

On Monday, Putnam County Department of Health staff were able to test qualified individuals who met specific state DOH and Centers for Disease Control criteria using the drive-through clinic procedure implemented recently in Westchester County. In order to limit potential spread of the disease, testing occurred in an empty parking lot by appointment only with public health professionals taking proper infection control precautions. Provided photo.

Two positive cases of COVID-19 in Putnam County residents have been confirmed by the Putnam County Department of Health. The individuals have been quarantined at home and will continue to be monitored carefully, according to the department.

Contact tracing is underway and those that are found to have had contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case will be notified by health department officials and precautionary or mandatory quarantine will be established for each person.

“This is not an unexpected event, nor should it cause alarm,” said County Executive MaryEllen Odell. “We knew eventually a positive case would be confirmed. The Putnam County Department of Health’s communicable disease staff is working with state and local partners to identify all possible contacts.”

Prior to lab-confirmation of positive COVID-19 cases in Putnam, the county executive declared a State of Emergency through March 27, and ordered all public schools closed for a five-day period, with an option to extend it for another five days. All classroom and extracurricular functions are also suspended.

The Garrison Union Free School District has announced that it will be closed through April 15.

On Sunday, Odell ordered all public daycare centers that are regulated by New York State – including but not limited to all large and small day care centers, nursery and preschools, prekindergarten and head start programs – in Putnam County be closed for five days  beginning March 16.

Additionally, the county executive issued executive orders canceling or postponing all social, community and public gatherings and events in which it is anticipated that more than 20 people will be in attendance; and ordering all food service establishments including delis, supermarkets, grocery stores and catering facilities to cease all buffet-style service and sales.

“You should only be leaving your homes when absolutely necessary,” said Odell. “All social events should be reconsidered and rescheduled if at all possible. By slowing the spread of COVID-19, it can allow the health care system to be better prepared and have the available beds for the most ill.”

According to news reports, as of Friday, there were 33 individuals in Putnam who were being monitored for COVID-19 symptoms due to recent travel or having come in contact with someone with the virus.

Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Nesheiwat acknowledged that the health department has received many complaints that resident are calling and not receiving an answer after leaving a message.

“We do apologize that our nurses are inundated with calls,” he said. “Please know that you are among many other people with concerns and questions. We are attempting to contact everybody who leaves us a message.”

Putnam County Sheriff Robert Langley suspended all visitation to the Putnam County Correctional Facility effective Monday. In addition, all programs and religious services are canceled until further notice, and the inmate work program will not be providing outside services to any facility until further notice.

“We know these steps will be difficult for the families of inmates and the inmates themselves, however we must ensure that we protect everyone’s health – especially those confined to close quarters,” said Langley.

All senior centers and adult day service sites will be closed for two weeks, from Monday, March 16 through and including Friday, March 27. Meals will instead be delivered at home for those who need them.

“Since seniors are particularly vulnerable to this virus, it is just better to be safe than sorry,” said Odell.

The Office of Senior Resources is expanding its home-delivered meal services while the senior centers are closed. Those who currently receive home-delivered meals will continue to do so. In addition, seniors who regularly attend the nutrition sites and who have been identified as in need of continued nutrition support will get meals delivered, according to OSR Director Michael Cunningham.

In addition to meals, the following services will also still be available to the county’s seniors during this time: telephone reassurance and expanded outreach to at-risk seniors and site participants, caregiver support, legal services, HIICAP health insurance counseling and assistance, EISEP and home health aide support, and HEAP home energy assistance.

The sites affected are the Carmel Friendship Center, the Putnam Valley Friendship Center, the Friendship Center at Philipstown and the William Koehler Senior Center in Mahopac.

On Sunday, the Putnam County Clerk’s Office encouraged all patrons to consider foregoing visiting that office and the Department of Motor Vehicles in Brewster for the upcoming week unless absolutely necessary.

“If you must visit our offices to avail yourself of our services, please be advised that we will be significantly limiting the amount of customers in our office,” said County Clerk Michael Bartolotti.

Visitors to the County Clerk’s Office, as well as DMV, will be limited to a maximum of 10 patrons at a time.

Nuvance Health, which includes Putnam Hospital Center in Carmel, announced Monday that no visitors will be allowed at any of its facilities until further notice.

“You should only be leaving your homes when absolutely necessary,” said Odell. “All social events should be reconsidered and rescheduled if at all possible. Please continue to use common sense and to be mindful of your neighbors and your communities so that we can achieve a reduction in exposure.”

Data suggest that 80 percent of people who contract the virus self-resolve and tend to have mild symptoms that eventually subside, according to the health commissioner. “But we practice social distancing for the 20 percent that will have serious complications, hospitalizations requiring intubation, or possibly death,” said Nesheiwat.

Testing for COVID-19 is occurring in Putnam County, at the discretion of an attending physician following state DOH and CDC guidelines.

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