With a state of emergency in effect, Saratoga County officials held an update on the novel coronavirus on Tuesday afternoon.
Officials organized a conference call Tuesday to alert reporters about what steps are being taken within the largely rural county.
Commissioner of Emergency Services Carl Zeilman said the county began discussion on the novel coronavirus months ago. On Monday, a State of Emergency was declared and an emergency operations center has been opened in Ballston Spa.
As county public health and safety agencies coordinate, New York State is headquartering local response efforts at the Saratoga Spa State Park, says Zeilman.
“We are in constant communication with them several times a day for updates and situational awareness,” said Zeilman.
By Tuesday evening, there were at least 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Saratoga County, with at least one hospitalization.
County health department director Catherine Duncan said there has been community spread of the virus. She said there was a concentration in the southern part of the county.
“We have a large number in Clifton Park,” said Duncan.
Drive-through testing is being conducted at Saratoga Hospital, though Duncan is asking people to contact their healthcare provider before requesting a test.
“They are only taking people who are coming in with doctor’s orders, so there is a process. You do have to contact a healthcare provider, and that healthcare provider has to make that decision,” said Duncan.
County Sheriff Michael Zurlo has activated his office’s Special Needs Registry, which currently includes 86 elderly individuals who are unable to move about the county on their own.
Zurlo says officers began paying visits to people on the registry on Monday.
“If they need groceries, if they need medical assistance, if they need any other type of need, the deputy that is there with them will call back to the command center that I have people with, along with Commissioner Zeilman, and we’ll work with county agencies to see that they get those needs,” said Zurlo.
Additionally, Zurlo says deputies have been outfitted with masks, goggles, gloves, and gowns to protect themselves and prevent spread of the illness if assisting anyone who has tested positive.
“It’s about working together here. Add any other resources I have to any other county department that needs it,” said Zurlo.
Steps have also been taken to assist those experiencing homelessness in case of emergency.
At a special meeting Monday, the Saratoga Springs City Council passed a measure to convert the senior center at 5 William Street to an emergency shelter for people currently staying at the Code Blue shelter operated by Shelters of Saratoga on Adelphi Street.
The non-profit, which has a case-managed shelter on Walworth Street, says staff is performing outreach and staff is monitoring guests for the symptoms.
Shelters of Saratoga Executive Director Karen Gregory says the state health department, the local Department of Social Services, and area hospitals would need to treat and house the sick, as well as connect them with food and other essential services.
With seniors and those with underlying health issues most at-risk for serious complications associated with COVID-19, county health director Duncan is urging everyone in the county to practice social distancing, particularly younger people who may show milder or no symptoms of the virus.
“And they would feel horrible, I’m sure, if they were to spread this disease to their parents or to their grandparents who are at a higher risk of having very bad symptoms,” said Duncan.
Saratoga County has opened a COVID-19 hotline at 518-885-2276. The State Department of Health hotline is 1-888-364-3065.