Don't let up virus fighting, county urges

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Oneida County authorities urge restraint and responsibility as the need to break cabin fever worsened by a cold, damp early spring may prompt more activity this weekend and early next week.

The county recorded 12 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 Friday, for 336 in all so far. Thirty-five patients confirmed to have the COVID-19 coronavirus remained hospitalized, including five at Rome Memorial Hospital, 24 at Mohawk Valley Health System hospitals, and four at hospitals out of the county. Eleven county residents have died with the condition.

The new tally of cases included two positives from 30 test results reported to the county Health Department from drive-through, by-appointment-only testing begun Monday at the Rite-Aid store on Commercial Drive in the town of New Hartford.

With the weather forecast to be sunny and warm at least some of the weekend, it will be tempting to gather and congregate, but that has to be avoided, County Executive Anthony Picente said during the daily briefing Friday afternoonon COVID-19 response.

“I know it’s going to be hard when the sun comes out and the weather hits 60 or above or even 50 and above these days. It’s hard to stay at home and pinned down. But we really have to get through the next week or two really and see what those numbers look like before we loosen up.”

The county reported two new incidents of potential public exposure by people confirmed to have been exposed to the coronavirus, though officials said both people wore face masks at the time and risk to the public is very low.

On Sunday, an Oneida County resident who has tested positive for COVID-19 was at the Price Chopper supermarket at 1917 Genesee St. in south Utica between 11 and 11:30 a.m. Anyone who was in the store during that time period should monitor themselves for symptoms until May 3 and contact their health care provider if symptoms develop, but it is not necessary to self-quarantine.

The other incident was 9 to 9:30 a.m. Monday at the Walmart 4765 Commercial Drive in New Hartford between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Anyone in the store then should monitor themselves for symptoms until May 4; there's no need to self-quarantine.

Picente said Friday he and Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES Superintendent Patricia N. Kilburn are convening a working group to develop a plan for opening schools in a pandemic-safe way. A final decision on when schools may reopen may come from Gov. Andrew Cuomo next week, but Picente said it seems unlikely schools will reopen this scheduled academic year. The local plan will address safety, hygiene and density protocols for when school does resume, he added.

Picente also praised Indium Corp., which has facilities in Utica, New Hartford, Kirkland and Rome, for promoting a program among manufacturing employers for safe operations during the pandemic. The CNY Manufacturer's Pledge Program draws on experience from previous epidemics elsewhere in the world and addresses best practices and protocols in manufacturing workplaces.

Picente continued his praise for county residents who he said have generally heeded the need to maintain social distancing.

"I’m very proud of what we’ve done, proud of this great Oneida County that we live in, and look forward to the days that we can lessen these restrictions and can move ahead, and we will get there and we’ll get there together.”

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