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May 5, 2020 - 9:37am

Health director: Genesee's reopening contingent upon larger region's data points

The local public health director on Monday said he is a bit wary about how Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s regional approach to reopening the economy will affect Genesee County.

“I do have some concerns around the regional approach here as we’re going to be able to move forward and (or) get stuck on pause based on what our entire region (Finger Lakes) does, and if you look at the metrics, it’s going to be driven by data,” said Paul Pettit, director of the Genesee and Orleans Health Departments.

Speaking at the Human Services Committee meeting of the Genesee County Legislature, Pettit said the region is “lining up a little bit more now” with the hospitalization rates that are part of the equation leading toward increased business activity.

“It’s based on 100,000 residents, so look at our Finger Lakes Region,” he said. “I think we’re around 1.3 million, maybe a little less, and we have to meet certain data points.”

On Monday, the governor stated that the Finger Lakes Region meets five of the seven metrics needed to reopen safely: decline in hospitalizations; decline in hospital deaths; new hospitalizations; percentage of hospital beds available; and percentage of ICU beds available.

The region does not meet requirements dealing with the number of residents tested monthly and the number of contract tracers, the governor said.

Pettit acknowledged that the governor's latest press conference provided more clarity in his four-phase approach to reopening by sharing the “different metrics we need to go through in order to progress.”

“We’ve been asking for weeks now exactly what this is going to look like, so it’s starting to shape up a little bit,” he said.

He said the county’s plan is to send information to businesses and other organizations with some guidance so, “hopefully when we get to Phase 1 here and we get to launch on May 15th – which we’re optimistic will happen – all of our essential businesses that will be added in, mainly around construction, manufacturing and some retailers, etc., will be ready to go.”

County Manager Jay Gsell indicated that the Finger Lakes Region is one of the five regions that on May 15th will be able to enter Phase 1.

“If our metrics and our data still continue to look positive, we should be able to look at the phasing of reopening of the Finger Lakes Region, which Genesee County is part of. That’s one small sliver of good news, at least this afternoon around 4:25,” he said.

Pettit was asked about antibody testing in Genesee County, and said that it is not widely available in this region.

“Unfortunately, just like the testing, we seem to be lagging behind,” he said. “We are getting some results in from antibody testing. We have not had anybody as of last Friday that had shown they had antibodies. There are some Genesee County residents that have been tested (for antibodies) at random sites the state has or health care workers.”

He said antibody testing reveals a “level of exposure to the virus … helping us understand how much of our community has been exposed, but it doesn’t really tell us much beyond that about protection and immunity … it’s still too new.”

The Human Services Committee passed a resolution accepting an additional $4,726 in funding from the New York Department of Health to cover increased workload costs in connection with early intervention administration as it pertains to referrals of children showing signs of lead poisoning.

In other developments, the committee voted in favor of four contracts pertaining to the Office for the Aging:

-- Increasing the amount of an agreement with ARC of Genesee Orleans by $40,000 for meal service preparation as demand has risen due to COVID-19. The original amount for the period of July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020 was $223,927.

Office for the Aging Director Diana Fox said the additional expense is covered by federal stimulus funds and other funding streams that were directed to the agency. She also said that serving congregate meals has given way to home-delivered meals at this time.

-- Extending an agreement with the National Council on Aging Inc., to provide Aging in Mastery Program sessions through the end of the year -- beyond the previously approved May 2020.

The program offers interactive classes for adults 55 and older that promote behaviors that improve health, economic security, self-esteem and social activity.

-- Renewing a RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) grant of $47,500 through March 31, 2021 from the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The grant, which was included in the 2020 county budget, enables the agency to utilize the network of local volunteers to assist older citizens in various areas, including coping skills, veterans’ support, environmental stewardship, reducing food insecurity, emergency preparedness and opioid awareness.

-- Renewing a contract with Willcare Inc., to oversee consumer-directed in-home services from June 1, 2020 through May 31, 2021 at hourly rates ranging from $20.51 to $23.11 per hour, for a total not to exceed $25,792 for the specified year.

Under this plan, the control of homecare services is shifted from homecare agencies – which in many cases are unable to accommodate all requests -- to the consumer (or representative) for budgeting, care planning, decision-making and arranging for services and staffing.

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