The Dutchess County executive and his health department leader updated residents Wednesday on the coronavirus pandemic and how Dutchess is responding. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne tuned in to the virtual town hall that drew some 12,000 people.
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro says the county is launching an initiative this week.
“I want you to know that we’re organizing ‘Dutchess Responds,’ an effort to both collect funds and to organize response and services, food to be delivered to pantries and locations throughout the county. Volunteers can sign up to participate in an effort to deliver products, food, services,” Molinaros says. “We’re also opening later this week a 24/7 facility in the City of Poughkeepsie for those that are displaced, to homeless and otherwise that might need access to services. We’ve issued an order to have that occur.”
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan announced a similar effort this week called “Project Resilience.” Molinaro says Dutchess had 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19 by Wednesday.
“Go right ahead Jean, why don’t you ask your question regarding testing,” Molinaro says.
“I want to know when and where it will be available for us in Dutchess,” says Jean.
“Ok, great question, and it’s obviously on everyone’s mind,” says Molinaro. “Number one, there is little question that access in testing across the country has been difficult.”
He says private healthcare providers have access to some testing. Dutchess Emergency Response Commissioner Dana Smith says the county has a request in with the state to establish a mobile testing site.
“That is in process. It’s a standup medical facility, so obviously it can’t be done overnight,” Smith says. “But we are hopeful that will become operational soon.”
The state set up a site in Rockland earlier this week, near the Orange County border at the Anthony Wayne Recreation Area off the Palisades Interstate Parkway. Again, Molinaro:
“We are working with a private healthcare network in the expectation that they will prop up a mobile testing facility as early as early next week,” says Molinaro. “We don’t have that yet to announce.”
Dutchess County Behavioral & Community Health Commissioner Dr. Anil Vaidian says those with minimal symptoms or not at risk likely should skip testing. And he describes how COVID-19 differs from the seasonal flu.
“From the data that we already have from places like China, South Korea is the fact that a greater percentage of people who acquire COVID-19 may get severe disease, whereas seasonal flu, less than 5 percent may have a serious illness; with COVID-19, in some percentages, can be up to like 15-to-20 percent,” says Dr. Vaidian.
He says there is a higher mortality rate for COVID-19. And he responded to a question about coronavirus sticking to surfaces.
“And so the current guidance is that expect this virus to be still viable on surfaces for roughly between two-to-nine days,” says Dr. Vaidian. “And this is sort of a conservative estimate. It’s probably a lot lower.”
Molinaro said there were some questions about school closures.
“I think it would be fair to suggest that schools closures will likely exceed the two-week period,” says Molinaro. “Now, I’m going to be a little more casual than maybe the governor or others might be. I do think it is likely that school closures will exceed through the month of April.”
Schools across New York began a mandatory two-week closure that ends April 1 per an executive order from Governor Andrew Cuomo. Dr. Vaidian answered a question about some young people ignoring social distancing and feeling immune.
“So they may be lulled into a false sense of security because, again, that is not the population that typically is being tested at this point,” says Dr. Vaidian. “And what they may be doing is engaging in activities which may promote the spread of, ultimately they may be going back to families that may include a grandmother or a father or a parent that may have underlying medical conditions.”
Molinaro talked about emergency loans for small businesses to assist with economic impact.
“Dutchess County is one of three counties in the state of New York that has been approved for SBA loans, Small Business Administration loans,” Molinaro says.
Molinaro is holding a conference call Friday with local business owners and leaders.
“We have requested of the state of New York a waiver, a delay in payments on sales tax,” Molinaro says.
Eileen, who is 82, wondered if she should go food shopping in person. Molinaro says some grocery stores have set aside time for just senior citizens and people at risk to shop.
“If you can have the delivery, do the delivery. It is terrific,” says Molinaro. “We’ve been able to coordinate from Adams [Fairacre Farms] to Stop and Shop. I don’t want to mention all of them. You’ll find them at dutchessny.gov. A good number of businesses have agreed to open special hours for seniors.”
Molinaro told residents to visit Dutchess County’s website, Facebook page and twitter feed.
“It’s very important that we provide you information that’s sourced and consistent and that you can rely on as being accurate,” Molinaro says. “So dutchessny.gov is the place to go for updated and accurate information from county government, and that information is mostly sourced through the CDC, the World Health Organization and the New York state Department of Health.”
He says there will be live updates weekly. Molinaro says he’ll hold another Facebook live/telephone town hall April 2.