November 30, 2021

County officials update on COVID response

Cortland County officials heard from county department leaders Wednesday morning about the county’s response to COVID-19. Here’s some of what department heads had to say:

Health Department

Director Catherine Feuerherm said the county’s positive cases have been “lagging behind all our contiguous counties,” but that is expected to change and the county will see an increase after employees at Pyrotek in Cortlandville tested positive. The company released a statement Tuesday that two people tested positive and 11 others were presenting symptoms. Feuerherm said two more people have been added to that list. She also noted not all of the original 11 employees live in Cortland County.

“Our weak spot still is from the point of testing to the point of getting your test results,” she said.

She also reiterated that there are no reported deaths in the county, although the state Health Department’s website reports one.

“We have not received a death certificate yet confirming that, but there is a lag in reporting on death certificates when a death occurs out of county.”

She said three people who are hospitalized are in serious condition.

Social Services

Commissioner Kristen Monroe said the largest increase in applications for aid has been for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps people buy food.

The county has received almost 200 applications since March 18, about double the normal amount. About half the applications are because people lost their jobs due to the virus.

The state has introduced emergency allotment for SNAP, which will be provided to 1,995l households that were not receiving the maximum household benefit prior to the virus.

Many cases have been extended for six months, she said, and the state has also suspended many eligibility requirements for programs.

The state has placed a moratorium on evictions and utility shutoffs. However, Monroe said she expects a surge in applications for assistance once the moratorium is lifted.

Area Agency on Aging

Director Elizabeth Haskins said 129 clients get meals delivered twice a week. Three of those clients joined recently because of the virus and 29 clients left the program due to concerns of exposure.

Every person getting a meal has been contacted to ensure a plan is in place if — for some reason — the county cannot deliver a meal.

Haskins said 63 people receive personal care of house-cleaning services, but three do not because the agency lost three aides. Another eight are on a waiting list.

Most aging services specialists and all other staff are working remotely. Wellness checks for 1,100 senior center clients will begin shortly, she said.

Emergency Response and Communication

Director Scott Roman said the county has distributed thousands of N95 masks between the hospital, police departments, fire departments and ambulance companies.

“We have no guaranteed supplier of any type of material, we’re delivering what we’re getting,” he said.

He also said fire departments have also changed how they handle calls, trying to keep their distance when possible.

“All the fire departments are no longer going to most residential EMS calls,” he said, noting the ambulance companies are handling those calls. Every caller is also being asked about whether they have any of the virus symptoms.

Personnel

Legislature Chairman Paul Heider announced the county has frozen hiring. He did not say when that freeze would end.