Face masks now required at all times in public

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Face masks

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Starting tomorrow, anyone in New York is required to wear a mask or face covering at all times in public or situations where social distancing cannot be maintained (i.e. public transit, required interactions, etc.)

Locally, several businesses and individuals are making these available and affordable for residents, such as Artisan Elements on Franklin Street in Homer and Magpie Custom Creations on East Court Street in Cortland.

Additional options are being posted to a collective Facebook page entitled “Cortland-Tompkins County face mask,” which also includes information on how to make your own at home.

The latest executive order by Governor Cuomo follows another that took effect last night mandating any employees who are in contact with members of the public to cover their face, as well.

For local businesses in the Cortland County, a special partnership between governmental and non-governmental agencies is helping secure masks for distribution.

Joining together to make that happen are the Cortland County Tavern and Restaurant Association, Business Development Corporation, Chamber of Commerce and Cayuga-Cortland Workforce Development Board.

Any businesses in need face coverings can now call 607-745-0072 at any time to secure a supply based on their need, which are then delivered by volunteers from the Chamber, the BDC, the county and others.

Residents are advised these mandates are enforceable under public health law.


Testing

Governor Cuomo also says the state will begin conducting new antibody tests this week, prioritizing frontline health care workers, first responders and other essential workers using a brand-new finger prick method.

That’s expected to start at around 2k residents per day, with hopes of working that number up to 100k/day by requesting expedited FDA approval.

So far, testing has been a non-issue in Cortland County.

Many residents have asked about the lack of a drive-through testing site like those found in neighboring counties such as Tompkins and Onondaga – and they’ve now gotten their response.

Guthrie Cortland Medical Center president Jennifer Yartym says the community’s testing needs are currently being met without the need to open up another site.

It’s all being done in coordination with CDC and DOH guidelines, and so far the county has been lucky in avoiding a sudden increase in demand for testing.

However, Yartym assured those with concerns that should a situation arise requiring mass testing, GCMC is prepared to handle the increase in partnership with the Cortland County Health Department.

Public Health Director Cathy Feuerherm added to that sentiment and said the relatively low number of positive cases is a demonstration of the community’s effectiveness with social distancing.

“County residents and businesses/agencies are doing a great job implementing the requirements of social distancing despite a ‘D’ grade in a recent survey,” said Feuerherm. “Up until now, the Cortland community had not seen related cases of COVID-19 in an essential business.”

Up until now.

Cortland’s Pyrotek facility recently reported two staff members testing positive for COVID-19, which Feuerherm warned is likely to lead to additional related cases in the near future.

The facility has since closed down until matters are restored and the infected workers are being quarantined.

“We hope that this will be an example for other essential employers of the need to practice to the fullest extent possible all protocols and procedure to prevent the spread of this disease,” said Feuerherm.


Incorrect death reported in Cortland County

County health officials also clarified a COVID-related death that was reported under Cortland County by the state Department of Health, which Feuerherm believes occurred downstate and was attributed to the county based on the person’s last known residence or outdated driver’s license.

While details remain uncertain, Feuerherm speculates one example that could account for the figure is former SUNY Cortland Professor Joel Shatzky, a former county resident who recently passed away due to COVID-related causes while living downstate.

In a reaffirming statement, the county health department declared there have been no deaths in current county residents attributable to COVID-19.


The number of positive cases in Cortland County is now 27 (as of 4/15) – including nine active and 18 recovered – along with 745 negative results.

To date, none of the confirmed have transmitted to anyone outside their household once they were isolated.

County Health officials are also monitoring 45 others and say three patients are currently in the hospital out of a total of five thus far.

At least one is reported to be in serious condition.

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