Montgomery Co. Officials: Social Distancing A Must During Religious Holidays | WAMC

Montgomery Co. Officials: Social Distancing A Must During Religious Holidays

Apr 10, 2020

Positive COVID-19 cases in Montgomery County have more than doubled in the last week. With warm weather coming and religious holidays here, officials are urging residents to comply with social distancing in communities that have not yet reached peak spread of the virus.

Last Friday, there were 12 lab-confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the Mohawk Valley county. By Thursday afternoon, there were 30 confirmed cases and one death.

County Executive Matt Ossenfort, joined by county Public Health Director Sara Boerenko and county Sheriff Jeff Smith, said the county will be observing social distancing until at least May 15th.

But in a week of religious holidays, Ossenfort, a Republican, urged county residents to refrain from hosting gatherings or attending services.

“We’re not talking about Westchester, we’re not talking about New York City, we’re not talking about Washington. We’re talking about our community right here. God forbid somebody holds a mass, there’s a hundred people there…you could have 30 people infected just in that gathering alone! Which then increases the spread, which then takes our hopeful May 15th day to now June 15th if things like that happen, so we understand that’s a tough decision to make,” said Ossenfort.

Officials say Montgomery County’s peak is expected to be weeks behind New York City, or even other upstate areas like the Hudson Valley.

Ossenfort reminded viewers that Governor Andrew Cuomo recently threatened fines of up to $1,000 for violating social distancing laws.

“We are prepared to do enforcement if we have to,” said Ossenfort.

Montgomery County Sheriff Jeff Smith…

“To reiterate what the County Executive said, none of us want to come by and be the people who are going to break up a family gathering or be the people who are going to to knock on your door because we received a complaint. But we have received a dozen of these complaints already. And the stance we’re trying to take is we want to educate people,” said Smith.

A large focus of Thursday’s briefing was mental health. Public Health Director Boerenko said unfortunately, social distancing can mean social isolation.

“And we’re seeing an increase in depression, anxiety, substance use,” said Boerenko.

Sheriff Smith said domestic violence is up as well.

“We actually researched our numbers just the other day for disorderly persons, domestic disputes, and fights. And all of them are up from last year at this time. And unfortunately we expect them to increase as we move through the month,” said Smith.

The officials provided a number of hotline numbers and online resources to assist those experiencing mental health or domestic issues.

Montgomery County is also joining in the Take 5 New York campaign, to encourage people to reach out to their friends and loved ones.

Again, Sara Boerenko.

“We know our daily lives have been disrupted. This is causing stress and anxiety for many of us. But we have to consider taking five minutes giving someone you know a call. It can help not only make you feel better, but it can boost somebody else’s mood as well,” said Boerenko.