Schuyler officials discuss COVID protocols
SCHUYLER COUNTY--The Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development held a Zoom meeting Tuesday, Dec. 14 to inform local businesses on COVID-19 mitigation regulations recently implemented by the state. Current Deputy County Administrator Fonda Chronis, who will be replacing Tim O'Hearn in the new year, led much of the discussion.
"We are concerned about our community and the safety of our folks," said Chronis.
Last Monday, new rules went into place state-wide requiring face coverings to be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement.
While not an Executive Order, Chronis explained the current masking regulations are put in place through a determination from the commissioner of health and carries the full weight of the law behind it.
"It covers everything but your house; and what organizations and businesses must do is choose between two options," Chronis stated. "Everyone masks... on premises... the other choice is that everyone in the building must be vaccinated."
Although the mandate is currently in place, enforcement is another matter entirely.
"The state (has admitted) they are looking for voluntary compliance... to look for people... to do the right thing," said Chronis.
Counties, who the new directive says can enforce the mandate through public health departments, have largely said their resources are being devoted to COVID vaccinations and testing, and without significant state support, could not focus on mask compliance.
"But those with New York state licenses could be at risk," Chronis has stated previously. This could include things like an alcohol license, although as of press time there have been no reports state-wide of that happening.
Schuyler Hospital President Rebecca Gould was also in attendance and shared the concern shown by Chronis.
"We do continue to see those numbers at a pretty high rate here," said Gould.
The issue of available health care workers is a challenge state-wide and recently saw Gov. Kathy Hochul declare a state of emergency to allow for additional resources to be contributed to the problem.
"We haven't been immune to that here... we are feeling the crunch," Gould said.
During previous COVID spikes, Gould said upstate facilities had to send health care workers downstate to help, but that the opposite has been true during the current spike.
Hochul signed an Executive Order that allows non-essential, non-urgent elective surgeries to be postponed in areas that have been hardest hit and lack hospital capacity. This has not occurred yet locally, but nearby Geneva and Canandaigua hospitals have exceeded limits.
Gould said the hospital has maintained a masking policy throughout the pandemic and anyone visiting must do so.
Chronis walked those in attendance through the numbers and demonstrated a clear correlation to a local spike in cases to when the weather started to get cold, peaking right after the holiday season. Schuyler is set to roughly double the COVID numbers compared to December of 2020.
"You can see we are just starting the holiday season and already we are above the peaks of last year," said Chronis.