The coronavirus pandemic has tested every community’s ability to respond to a global crisis. It is very different from natural disasters and even in some ways the attacks of 9/11 that impacted one state, city or region more allowing others to assist with finances, supplies and emotional support.
In this, we are all equal, facing the same challenges that our neighboring counties and the nation faces as a whole. While I know we still have a long road ahead of us, I am proud of how the people of Oneida County have responded. As events were canceled and schools were closed, our residents knew this was no ordinary crisis.
Community groups and organizations began to adjust and before long, we were living in a much different place, a much safer place.
County government took the lead as it has in previous emergencies and began a series of actions designed to assist where needed and made the tough decisions that would keep our residents as safe as possible. We closed schools, senior centers, and immediately reduced public contact in our offices. We assembled our major health care providers to assess their capacity and how we could help without getting in their way as they deal with the challenge of testing and treatment. We have directed people to work from home where possible, not to congregate, to find new ways to connect with loved ones and to live in this new way for an undetermined amount of time.
Over the past several days, I have held daily briefings to keep our residents aware of test results and the various actions taken, whether through the county as well as those directed by our governor and president as New York has the highest number of cases in the United States. While the information is often repetitive, it is crucial to keeping as many people healthy as we can and reducing the potential for more positive cases. In addition to informing the public of all of actions taken, we have established various ways that people can receive the help they need from county government. Phone lines have been established for emergency assistance, elder care, health questions, mental health assistance and daycare needs. All are available on our website ocgov.net
Our health care workers and first responders continue to work tirelessly and we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude to them. It clearly is the calling that they have answered that sustains them during this time.
County government continues to provide them with the protective equipment needed for them to do their work and remain safe. All in public service are doing what is necessary to keep our residents safe. Our business community has also responded with great force under very difficult circumstances. Grocery workers and pharmacies continue to serve the needs of all of us. Manufacturers continue to produce essential goods for our economy.
Moreover, much of our workforce has been displaced and we fight this scourge to get them all back to work.
The economic impact has been hard. Many businesses that were thriving just a few weeks ago are struggling today as customers and workers are forced to stay home.People have been laid off others have seen reduced hours. We are working with the business and not for profit community to assess the impact and wherever possible to address their needs.
Like the rest of America we are hopeful that much needed relief will start to flow from the recently approved federal relief package.
While our case ratio as of this writing is lower than that of New York City as well as the national numbers, we need to continue the measures that we have put in place to stop the spread and save lives.
We will see more cases.
I have been asked repeatedly, why is Oneida County not releasing more information regarding the positive cases that we have here? My reasoning is simple. This virus is universal. To disclose publicly the location of a positive case has no remedial benefit. Doing so would create a false sense of security for some, and create panic and anxiety for others.
Furthermore, disclosure makes it harder for the Department of Health to do its job. It would encourage complacency — the very situation that we are trying very hard to avoid. Until this disease has subsided significantly, we must remain vigilant. It is everywhere, as much as we try to look for gaps to get through, the fact remains we need to act and react as every place and everyone can get it. That is the harsh reality. That is why social distancing and separation from each other is so important. It is hard for everyone. However, it works. No, it is not foolproof. Nevertheless, it will slow the spread so that fewer people are affected, our healthcare system is not overwhelmed and ultimately we can get back to the lives we love.
We have asked a great deal of everyone and we still have a way to go. I have asked everyone to leave their porch light on during this time for all those that work during the night to heal us and keep us safe. It is a simple gesture. An example of community. Because together we can illuminate the path to the other side of this.
Be safe. Be smart and God bless.