October 18, 2021

County department heads gives virus update

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Legislators, municipal leaders and members of the public heard Wednesday from county department heads on where they stand with handling the coronavirus pandemic.

Health Department

Public Health Director Catherine Feuerherm said the county’s 19-day streak with no new confirmed COVID19 cases was broken Tuesday evening when one person tested positive for the virus.

Nursing homes and migrant farm worker population remain concerns across the state, she said.

“We have been in touch with our nursing homes and the state is getting together a plan around testing in nursing homes, both staff and residents,” she said.

She also said she’s been in touch with Courtney Metcalf, the assistant director of Emergency Response and Communication, about reaching out to farms to ensure workers have enough supplies. She also said the Migrant Education Program at SUNY College is willing to help.

Furloughs and sales tax revenue

The county furloughed 57 people through the end of July, said County Administrator Rob Corpora.

Originally, the county planned to lay off up to 75 people.

Corpora also said New York State Association of Counties sales tax revenue loss estimations have increased and that could mean a county loss of anywhere from $1.2 million to more than $6 million.

“It’s too early right now to say exactly where it’s going to end up, but we’re monitoring it closely,” he said.

Opening the county

Legislature Chairman Paul Heider said he spoke to Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon Wednesday morning and the business plan to open the Central New York region has been submitted to the governor’s office for approval.

“There is no firm commitment by the state to accept it at this time,” he said.

Heider did not elaborate on what the plan entails.

Area Agency on Aging

Director Elizabeth Haskins said frozen meals continue to be delivered twice a week, but discussions are ongoing about returning to normal delivery.

She said the department is partnering with the United Methodist Church in Truxton for food pantry operations. That pantry is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays by appointment. People should call the agency. The Willett pantry will be open the second and fourth Thursday of the month by appointment only. The department is also considering a drive-through pantry in Cortland.

Meat vendors anticipate shortages, she said, but the department’s supply is adequate for the moment. The state Office of Aging is working on a way to get fresh fruit and vegetables from farmers.

She said masks continue to be distributed to people who get home-delivered meals.

Social Services Department

Commissioner Kristen Monroe said a new mobile application is available for people to submit paperwork for assistance programs, including Medicaid and food assistance.

Information on that app is available on the county website.

Food assistance applications have slowed, Monroe said, adding she believes it’s because of stimulus checks going out and unemployment benefits increase.

However, the number of severe child protective services cases has increased, requiring the department to take custody of the children.

“Most of these cases have unfortunately involved substance abuse,” she said.

Mental Health

Director Sharon MacDougall said the county has seen an increase in mental health needs. “We’re expecting this to only worsen as we come out of this,” she said.

However, there’s been an increase in the number of sessions provided after switching to telehealth, because people didn’t have to worry about transportation.

She said the department is also expecting huge funding cuts to the state’s mental health departments, which will hit Cortland.