Correction: Schuyler reports 1,669 resident vaccinations
SCHUYLER COUNTY--County Administrator Tim O'Hearn gave an update on the vaccination efforts in the county during the Monday, Feb. 8 county legislative meeting. O'Hearn said that Schuyler has devised a very effective plan for vaccination the only holdback is the lack of vaccine across the state and country.
"A lot of positive developments on that front but still slow progress," O'Hearn said. "We are making headway here and I think a lot of this is the outcome of counties across the state screaming 'this is not working,' you need to give us more responsibility and ability to do what we have been trained to do through our public health departments. That message seems to be resonating and it looks like we are seeing some outcomes of that. Happy to report on that, and we are going to see our [vaccine] numbers increase somewhat dramatically in the next few weeks and I would even go so far as to say in three months we will probably be looking for arms not vaccines, we'll have more supply than willing participants, that is my wishful thinking."
As of Feb. 8, there have been two new reported positive cases bringing the total to 26 currently active and 10 hospitalizations. Two more deaths were reported in the last week bringing the total to 12.
"On the vaccination front there have been 1,669 residents vaccinated in total in the county which represents 9.3 percent of the population," O'Hearn stated.
O'Hearn added the county has vaccinated a higher percentage of its population than what has been reported statewide.
"If we had vaccine this would be behind us," O'Hearn mentioned of the nation-wide shortage.
Due to the absence of some legislators, a local law was not passed that would have increased salaries for the county sheriff and clerk by three percent for 2022. Despite being 4-2 in favor, with Phil Barnes and Gary Gray voting against, the law failed, as state regulations require any absence or abstention to be counted as no votes.
"My rationale is not contingent on who holds the positions but the responsibilities themselves," O'Hearn said. "Both positions are midpoint or below for both positions (in terms of average salary state-wide) and in my estimation, these are fair salaries for the particular positions."
O'Hearn added he was comfortable adding the increases not only because he expects to unfreeze salaries by then for all employees but also because of his optimism for the county's financial situation going forward.
"2020 will come out better than anticipated (financially) and in 2021 with the progress anticipated and the potential of large events returning, I think it is a safe bet 2022 will be a significantly better year," O'Hearn remarked. "I think 2021 will be better than we budgeted for. I feel very comfortable with the fiscal position of the county at this point both currently and moving forward."
Barnes however stated that he did not share O'Hearn's optimism.
"I am not positive about the future," Barnes said. "I just don't see it with a $15 minimum wage and gas on its way to $4 a gallon."
Gray also voted against a resolution creating a full-time work experience position supervisor under the reasoning that financially the county should be pinching every penny.
"This position is required to fulfill a grant and there is a short window to get it expended as we discussed in committee," O'Hearn added.
At stake, O'Hearn said, is $108,000 in grant money. Gray was the sole vote against.
Shortly before the end of the meeting, O'Hearn took a moment to thank county Public Health Director Deborah Minor, who will retire at the end of February, for all her hard work.
"This has been a most challenging year and Deb rose to the challenge and drove the staff in both Yates and Schuyler," O'Hearn stated. "A lot of our success can be attributed to her leadership."
O'Hearn added Schuyler was, along with Yates County, involved in the decision to hire Minor's replacement, Annmarie Flanagan.
Correction: County Administrator Tim O'Hearn's presentation was incorrectly summarized in the first version of this story. While the county has made many efforts to accelerate community vaccination, it is a slow process that will still take a significant amount of time to complete.
O'Hearn's quote in the second paragraph has been corrected to fix a factual error in the amount of time it will take to have more vaccine supply than demand. O'Hearn said three months, not three weeks as originally reported. The quote in the first version of this story was shortened without noting that fact, and the full quote has now been provided for context.