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Saratoga County, Hospital Officials Answer Residents' Questions


Saratoga County public health officials and leaders at Saratoga Hospital answered questions from the public Monday related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

During the Facebook Live broadcast, the public got a chance to ask county health officials and doctors from Saratoga Hospital about the growing coronavirus crisis.

At the time of the call, there were 55 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county, with one person hospitalized at Saratoga Hospital. No deaths have been recorded, though the number of cases is rising.

One of the most frequently asked questions in the one-hour forum was: where are the cases located?

County Public Health Director Cathi Duncan would not provide details on where cases are popping up.

“It doesn’t make any difference if I tell you numbers because it could be your neighbor next door, it could be your pastor who is in a church that is two towns over. You just don’t know where it’s coming from and you don’t know who has it at this point in time. But just trust me to know that it is everywhere so that’s why we are asking everybody to stay home and to really just keep your distance. Keep your social distance for everyone,” said Duncan.

The officials repeatedly reiterated the importance of social distancing and handwashing.

Dr. Richard Falevina is Chief Medical Officer at Saratoga Hospital.

“The virus will be transmitted among the population. It’s inevitable but as we slow our social interactions, we slow transmission. The idea of slowing transmission is, that enables it to occur at a rate that the system can manage,” said Falivena.

As the novel coronavirus spreads in New York, the state hardest hit by the pandemic, Falivena said hospitals have been in communication with the state health department about preparing for a 150% capacity scenario. Falivena addressed a rumor that upstate doctors and nurses would be sent downstate.

“We have staffing plans in place, we’re working on space plans, equipment plans, so that’s where something like moving nurses downstate may have come from. But there’s absolutely nothing like that under discussion whatsoever. We’re just preparing for the inevitable increased volumes,” said Falivena.

Saratoga Hospital, like other Capital Region hospitals, is no longer offering widespread community testing. With test kits in short supply across the nation, Falivena said the hospital does have enough on hand right now to test those who need it most.

“We have reserved sufficient test kits so that patients that are hospitalized or patients who are considering hospitalizing can be tested. All healthcare workers can be tested. And in terms of healthcare workers, we use that in the broadest possible sense. So that includes our first responders, our pre-hospitalization EMS team, so they’re the people we need to keep safe,” said Falivena.

Several questions focused on how families should adapt to social distancing.

One woman asked about her husband, who is an essential employee and is working, and if she should separate him from the rest of the family. Duncan said isolation wasn’t necessary if he is asympotmatic but added the husband should take proper precautions before entering the home.  

“Your husband should probably leave his shoes and his jacket outside before coming inside and be sure to clean and disinfect frequently any touched objects and surfaces that he might come in contact with and the rest of the family may be coming in contact with,” said Duncan.

Dr. Michael Prezioso, Commissioner of Saratoga County’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Servicers, offered advice on how to communicate to children about the impacts of COVID-19. Prezioso said, taking the age of the child in mind, parents can answer questions — but there isn’t a need to answer questions that aren’t asked. He added that children do well with established routines.

“One of the things that you can do that will be most helpful actually is to establish under the new circumstances what your new routine will be for your family, for your child, and then take your child through that,” said Prezioso.

Also Monday, amid concern over COVID-19 spreading in correctional facilities, the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office said there were currently no positive cases of the virus in the county jail.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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