Three or four days from now?
COVID-19 will explode.
And in a week?
“It will look nothing like this. Every day is critical.”
That’s the message Schoharie County Director of Public Health Amy Gildemeister had for supervisors Monday when they met to declare a State of Emergency.
The State of Emergency, effective 11am Monday, closes all county facilities to employees and the public, effective 9am Tuesday, through March 31.
Some essential services and offices will remain open on a limited basis.
A number of towns and villages have already closed or gone to working at home; a list is on page 3.
Though Fulton Supervisor Phil Skowfoe and County Attorney Mike West both spoke about the importance of not taking steps so drastic they kill the local economy, Dr. Gildemeister—attending the meeting via speaker phone because she’s had contact with someone she now believes has COVID-19—said the time for thinking like that has passed.
“I think you’re misunderstanding the severity,” Dr. Gildemeister said.
“If we wait until we have cases, it will be catastrophic.”
Specifically, Dr. Gildemeister was speaking to Mr. Skowfoe and Mr. West’s focus on the need to support restaurants by continuing to eat there.
But halfway through the session, that became moot with word that the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are closing all restaurants and bars; for now, take-out and delivery will still be allowed.
The governors also lowered gatherings for crowds to no more than 50 people and closed theaters, gyms, and casinos, all effective 8pm Monday, as a way to spread the slow of COVID-19.
At press time, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Schoharie County, but no one expects that to hold much longer.
“Everything Dr. Amy has told us has been spot-on,” said Supervisor Bill Federice of Conesville, chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
“If she says it’s going to be serious in three or four days, it’s going to be serious. We are in a crisis…This is a crisis.”
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Dr. Gildemeister began Monday’s meeting—held at the new Public Safety Building where it was easier to “social distance”--talking about the need to slow the spread of COVID-19 so it doesn’t overwhelm hospitals. (See related stories.)
Even if just half of Schoharie County’s population of 32,000 comes down with COVID-19, based on a death rate of around one percent from “countries where they have acted early and decisively with extensive testing…it is likely that around 160 people will die of this virus in a best case scenario,” Dr. Gildemeister said.
The world-wide average death rate of 3.7 percent would translate to 592 deaths here; if things get as bad as they are in Italy, where the death rate is 7.3 percent, 1,168 people will die.
A second meeting with department heads followed the first where supervisors and department heads discussed staffing levels for essential employees—likely in offices including Office for the Aging, Social Services, and Mental Health.
The OFA plans to continue home-delivered meals, Mr. Federice said, “but the devil is in the details. It may mean ringing the bell and just leaving it.”
“This thing is moving so fast, a lot of details will be revisited,” he said.
Employees who are sent home will be paid, Mr. Federice said.
“Our intent is not to have any of these people hurt,” he said. “We’ve budgeted for it anyway.”
Documents related to the State of Emergency are on the county’s website, Www4.schohariecounty-ny.gov/