Hospitals in Rome and Utica have stopped drive-through testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus in order to reserve equipment and testing for more serious cases and to make sure health care workers aren’t infected.
Oneida County and the hospitals made the announcement Monday afternoon as the county reported three newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus, bringing the county’s total so far to 10.
One of the new cases is a person now being treated outside the county -- officials did not specify where -- and one person was at an area hospital and tested there.
A person confirmed to have the coronavirus who was hospitalized over the weekend was discharged.
County officials warned last week that test kits were in short supply. The drive-through testing was set up in order to help keep people who had symptoms that warranted testing in their doctor’s judgement out of emergency rooms and urgent-care offices to lessen the chance of infecting other people. But a shortage of supplies is something other communities are dealing with, and must be prioritized,Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. said.
“Because of that limited supply we priotize, again, for the criticall ill, hospitalized patients that need tests, and health care workers."
The decision was made among the hospitals and county health officials, Picente said.
In the week since the drive-through testing started, most people tested were those with minor symptoms, county Health Director Phyllis Ellis said. The recommendation now is that tests are needed only if coronavirus symptoms get dramatically worse and a person’s doctor or other health care provider judges it necessary. There is no treatment such as anti-viral drugs that can be given to people with influenza, and instead symptoms should be monitored for 14 days, the generally accepted course of the infection.
So far, some 80 percent of people who get the COVID-19 coronavirus resolve, state and county officials have said. The efforts now are focused on containing the outbreak so that the number of people who get it and develop life-threatening complications does not overwhelm the health care system, as has happened in some places, particularly Italy, where lifesaving equipment such as ventilators have at time been rationed and removed from people deemed less likely to survive.
Picente again urged cooperation with state directives to avoid congregating in groups other than immediate households, and with the state order that non-essential businesses operate except for work that can be done remotely.
Reports of employers violating the directive or labor laws may be made to the New York state attorney general at (212) 416-8700 or Labor.Bureau@ag.ny.gov
“Please do not congregate,” Picente said. “It is not just about you. It’s about putting other people at risk.” He urged residents to use technology like streaming video to keep in touch and to check in on one another.
The county did not disclose what towns, villages or cities the people who have tested positive live, but Picente said there is no pattern or indication of any concentration or hot spot.
Picente also again urged residents to show solidarity with health care workers, first responders and those in essential businesses like food delivery and utilities to leave their porch or other outside lights on each evening.
At the state level, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on all hospitals to try to boost their capacity by 50 percent. He has suggested unused space can be converted to patient-care space and ordered relaxation of state rules on hospital space utilization. He also said the state Health Department has sought retired health care professionals to enlist if needed, and said the state insurance regulating agency called on health insurance companies to free up staff doctors and nurses to help. “This is not about assessing insurance claims. This is about saving lives,” Cuomo said.
The state and federal authorities are setting up temporary hosptial space in the vast Javits Center convention space in Manhattan, and planned to start today trials of two drugs some scientists think show promise for fighting the coronavirus after receiving the go-ahead from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Cuomo said.
Cuomo also said plans are being made to move patients upstate if space, equipment and personnel in the New York metropolitan region are tapped out. New York has more cases than any other, the vast majority downstate. Of 20,875 reported by the state as of Monday morning, 12,305 were in New York City, with the next highest 2,894 in suburban Westchester County. The most upstate is 127 in Albany County. Cuomo attributed the high city number to population density.
“I don’t care -- upstate, downstate, this is one state. We're planning for one state. If you get overloaded in Albany, I’m going to use the hospital beds in Utica. If you get overloaded in Buffalo, we’ll use the hospital beds in Rochester ….”
Cuomo urged the federal government to implement the Federal Defense Production Act to compel industries to make medical supplies such as ventilators and infection control equipment.
“Yes, it is an assertion of power on compaies, but so what? This is a national emergecy. And you're paying the private sector company. They’re going to get paid, and they're going to get paid handsomely.”
Cuomo also urged residents again to avoid congregating either at home among non-household members and with vulnerable elderly, and also outside, as he saw at some parks in Brooklyn and Manhattan on sunny days this past weekend. He called on city officials to develop a plan to combat congregating and said he’ll use the tactics elsewhere if needed.
Cuomo also said his adminsitration is examing whether there may be a point where restrictions may be eased to focus on protecting the most vulnerable people to allow more economic activity to return. But he adde that he has no regrets about issuing the harsh orders and would do so again.
"The bottom line remains, we cannot handle the wave at the high point. The wave has to come down."