Drive-thru testing site (copy)

Health officials started operating a drive-thru testing facility on West Seventh Street on Wednesday, and Thursday reported more than 60 people in Oswego County have been tested. Officials say the drive-thru testing site is appointment only, and anyone who exhibits symptoms or may have come in contact with the virus should all their primary care physician or the Oswego County Health Department. 

No confirmed cases in Oswego County among 69 tested

OSWEGO — Testing for COVID-19 has increased significantly in recent days, with county officials saying 69 individuals have been tested or are scheduled to be tested as of Friday evening but there are still no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.

Local health officials on Tuesday afternoon said less than 10 people had been tested, and three days later reported a more than sixfold increase in the number of tests completed. Statewide more than 32,000 individuals have now been tested for the coronavirus after more than 10,000 people were tested in the previous 24 hours. 

“In our testing center, more people are being tested than the first few days,” Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang said Thursday, adding the mobile facility has been able to meet demand so far. “We have one site and we’ll see if this site’s capacity is full and we’ll assess the situation.”

Confirmed cases across New York state have risen sharply throughout the week, increasing from roughly 420 last Friday to 7,102 a week later. Gov. Andrew Cuomo reported 2,950 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide Friday, and at least 30 of the state’s 62 counties have now reported cases.

Cuomo said “New York has been very aggressive” about increasing the number of tests, and noted the spike in positive cases is due directly to an increase in the number of individuals who are being tested. Cuomo said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the increasing number of positive tests.

“It was the reality, the tests are just demonstrating what was,” Cuomo said. “If we could do more tests we would find more positives.”

Identifying positive cases of COVID-19 is a “good thing,” Cuomo said, noting it allows health officials to better track the disease.

Testing will likely continue to ramp up across the state, as more testing sites have opened across the state in recent days.

The county Health Department is tracking the testing closely, Huang said, and working with the state Department of Health (DOH) and local providers in an organized way to monitor the virus activity. County officials said Friday the health department is also currently monitoring 54 individuals for various reasons in relation to the coronavirus.

Oswego Health and the county Health Department worked together roll out a mobile testing site at Oswego Hospital on Wedensday. Testing is available by appointment only, and reserved for individuals who meet certain criteria as determined by their primary care physician or the county Health Department. 

“We are working closely with the Oswego County Department of Health and our community providers and earlier this week we operationalized a mobile testing unit for COVID-19 outside the hospital on West Seventh Street,” Oswego Health Chief Medical Officer Duane Tull said in a Wednesday statement. “It is important for us to protect our community and we wanted to be prepared.”

Oswego Police Department (OPD) personnel are on scene to provide security and handle any potential traffic issues that may occur. OPD Chief Phil Cady said the OPD presence would continue while testing occurs at the site, noting it is “normal operation” under emergency operation plans and shouldn’t cause fear.

Huang noted the county currently has enough material to keep up with testing demands. He said if more testing demands increase in the future, officials have plans to increase capacity. 

Federal, state and local governments have taken unprecedented action to curb the spread of COVID-19. Cuomo has held daily briefings and this week announced a series of measures, including shutting down bars and restaurants, curfews for certain retail establishments, closing schools and reductions to the workforce.Cuomo has also asked anyone who can work from home to do so, and urged calm in the face of the pandemic.

Oswego County Legislature Chairman James Weatherup, R-Central Square, declared a state of emergency last weekend that led to the closure of all nine school districts in the county. Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow has held several local briefings, enacting a number of changes to city government and implementing economic relief measures for businesses and residents.

State and local health officials and governments in recent weeks have been working with the state DOH to prepare for what many believe is the inevitable. Huang said the current situation is “challenging,” despite the unprecedented action and cooperation.

“We don’t know when the first case will come,” Huang said, adding local officials and health care workers “in the community are doing what they need to do to protect our health.”

There are a variety of challenges health officials are currently dealing with, Huang said, as doctors and scientists are still learning important details such as the incubation period, when certain symptoms develop and when individuals start and stop being infectious.

“This is a new disease,” Huang said. “It’s a learning experience for us ad for everybody.”

Huang said the response to COVID-19 would be critical in the coming days and weeks, pointing to the vastly different outcomes that occurred after the disease showed up in South Korea and Italy. He said health officials and community members need to follow state guidelines.

Health officials have said the best ways to protect against the coronavirus is to stay at home if possible. Individuals should frequently wash their hands and cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or elbow.

Anyone who is suffering from symptoms or believes they may have come in contact with the coronavirus should call their primary care physician. Individuals who do not have a primary care physician can call the Oswego County COVID-19 Hotline at 315-349-3330

Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Local health officials are following state DOH guidelines to determine who should be quarantined and tested for coronavirus. 

County officials said testing for COVID-19 is authorized under the following criteria:

• A person has been quarantined and develops signs and symptoms

• A person has a negative flu test and respiratory panel, and has signs and symptoms.

• A person has traveled to a level 2 or 3 country (currently China, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Europe or United States hotspots like New Rochelle) in the last 14 days, and has signs and symptoms

• A person has had close contact with a confirmed case and has signs and symptoms

• A physician has ruled out other causes and feels testing is warranted

This story was updated Friday evening to reflect new information

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