Oswego County joins rest of nation in battening down hatches for coronavirus
OSWEGO — Despite no positive cases confirmed in Oswego County, the COVID-19 coronavirus has gripped the region as local, state and federal authorities urge people to take all possible precautions against the disease.
News of closures, postponements, cancellations and restrictions continued to pour in over the weekend, with nearly every major public gathering in Oswego County put on hold.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week issued an executive order in response to the growing pandemic temporarily banning gatherings of more than 500 people. Spaces with a maximum capacity of fewer than 500 people are ordered to fill to only half capacity.
Cuomo said one of his three daughters has been in quarantine because she was exposed to someone with COVID-19.
“I had to talk myself through the reality of the situation, I had to calm myself,” Cuomo said at a news briefing.
The gathering ban does not apply to hospitals, schools, nursing homes or mass transit, but local assisted living facilities like the Morningstar family of facilities and St. Luke’s Bishop’s Commons and St. Francis Commons have ceased allowing non-staff personnel to visit.
“We know that this step may cause concern for many, but with an abundance of caution, we view this as a necessary measure to continue to protect our residents and staff,” said St. Luke Health Services CEO Terrence Gorman. “We are all working together to help minimize any disruptions in the lives of our residents that this may cause.”
Oswego County’s nine school districts — Oswego, Fulton, Central Square, Sandy Creek, Phoenix, Mexico, Altmar-Parish-Williamstown, Hannibal and Pulaski — were all immediately adjourned Sunday after a state of emergency was declared by Oswego County Legislature Chairman James Weatherup.
“There is currently no confirmed case of COVID-19 in Oswego County,” Weatherup, R-Hastings, said. “Because both travel-related cases and community contact transmission has occurred within New York state, Oswego County is being proactive in addressing the threat that COVID-19 poses to the health and welfare of its citizens.”
The state of emergency began at 12:30 p.m. Sunday pursuant to state executive law, and will continue until Tuesday, April 14. That is the earliest date schools could re-open, Weatherup said, and the order includes all school extra-curricular activities. Section III athletics officials have also moved the start date for all spring sports to April 14.
Oswego City School District Board of Education President Heather DelConte said the coronavirus threat was a sign of “unprecedented times that are testing our resolve as a community.”
“Things are changing at a very rapid pace and the school district has to respond in the best interest of student health and safety,” DelConte told The Palladium-Times Sunday. “We are dedicated to keeping people informed in real-time and we are constantly updating our website, www.oswego.org, with COVID-19 information as it becomes available.”
The coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019. For most people, catching it causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover in a matter of weeks.
Nearly all components of everyday life in Oswego County and the nation at large have been affected by the outbreak. The Greater Oswego County United Way’s Salute to Volunteers and Leadership Giving luncheon, set to be held Wednesday, has been postponed, as has this upcoming weekend’s free community dinner at the Minetto United Methodist Church. Rudy’s Lakeside Drive-In will push its season opening from March 18 to March 25, restaurant officials said Sunday. The Oswego landmark has been serving since since 1947.
Diocese of Syracuse Bishop Douglas Lucia has issued a dispensation from the Catholic obligation to attend Sunday Mass.
The diocese in a press relased asked “those that refrain from attending Mass due to illness join in the Novena prayer for an end to the coronavirus pandemic.”
Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow on Sunday told The Palladium-Times the city plans to proceed with tonight’s regularly scheduled Common Council meeting.
“Working with our partners, I feel we’re prepared and doing all the right things at this time,” said Barlow, whose administration was out in front on the coronavirus. The mayor last week held several conclaves with city department leaders and press conferences announcing the city’s preventative measures.
“We’ve continued working with Oswego Health and Governor Cuomo’s office, who have both been extremely helpful in all areas,” Barlow said. “Simultaneously, we’re encouraging businesses to follow the new capacity limits and other directives the governor has put forward.”
The 2020 Fulton Area Home Show, set for April 4, has been cancelled, according to Fulton Mayor Deana Michaels.
“We place great value on the health and well-being of our overall community,” Michaels said. “We understand the concern and the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) and we are committed to being responsive to the needs of our community, our employees and all those who live in, work in and visit Fulton.”
The upcoming Fulton City Hall open house and bus tour of city facilities has also been postponed, Michaels announced, noting she has been in regular contact with the county department of health, governor’s office and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The city of Fulton and our emergency service departments are prepared to handle a situation, should it arise,” Michaels said.
“Our departments have held ongoing training on the matter, we are equipped with the necessary tools and we are staying up to date on all the latest news and updates regarding COVID-19,” she added
On Sunday, Cuomo gave another news conference addressing the situation and the major issues families are set to deal with.
“For many families, the school is child care,” Cuomo said. “If you close the schools and the children are home, a large percentage of the workforce may say they have to stay at home to take care of their children.”
Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang said the area needs to “be ready before the disease comes.”
“As the lead agency in the local prevention and control of COVID-19, the Oswego County Health Department is working closely with New York State Department of Health, local response agencies, health care providers, schools and other key partners to monitor the disease activities and implement preventative measures,” said Huang.
For more information, visit the Oswego County Health Department at health.oswegocounty.com/covid-19. Additional questions can be directed to the NYS COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-364-3065 or the Oswego County Health Department COVID-19 hotline at 315-349-3330.