State could send resources to help with local cluster

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New York State could allocate more resources into Cortland County to help local health officials curb spiking COVID-19 trends in the community.

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During a press conference this morning (October 21), legislative chairman Paul Heider said a phone call was planned for around Noon today with representatives from the state health department.

Heider said he didn’t know exactly what to expect in that call.

“I’ve heard rumors they could help us out with a few indoor testing locations, but we’ll see today if there is any truth to that,” he said this morning.

Today’s conference followed a meeting yesterday that county officials joined with SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras during his visit to Cortland, which was made to announce the extension of remote learning for at least two weeks.

Speaking alongside Malatras was university president Erik Bitterbaum:

“The health and safety of our community remains SUNY Cortland’s top priority. In recent days we have begun to see a slight decline in new and active cases,” Bitterbaum said. “With an extension of study-in-place and the continued diligence of our students, faculty, staff, state and local health officials, and the SUNY system, we are optimistic that we will be able to contain the spread of the virus.”

Investigators noted the newest cases don’t appear to be coming from parties, but rather from ‘covid fatigue’ at smaller gatherings and other seemingly harmless events that end up causing a spread.

Members of the community were advised against the same bad habits in a release earlier this week by the county.

Testing, contact tracing and following health protocols are the focus of what’s next. However, there will be more accountability moving forward.

Heider said the county has built up an enforcement team to crack down on businesses and individuals found repeatedly in violation of mask/social distancing guidelines.

The team — which includes both county officials and members of local law enforcement — will be deployed as early as Monday, focusing on areas with existing complaints.

Up to 25 state case investigators will also be sent to work with county health officials on contact tracing.

Additionally, SUNY Upstate will also provide a mobile testing van to the campus, according to Malatras.

“We are partnering with everyone in our power to aggressively boost testing, tracing, and enforcement efforts in hopes of getting this virus under control. I share the anger and frustration felt by students who are doing the right thing, yet must still have their semester disrupted,” said Malatras. “This is a challenging time that requires uncompromising vigilance and uniform commitment from each and every person on campus—and that’s what we need to see at SUNY Cortland over the next two weeks.”

Governor Cuomo mentioned the county yesterday during his daily update with reporters:

“… the County of Cortland had a 7 percent infection rate and there is at least one micro-cluster there that we are dealing with related to a SUNY school.”

Stay tuned for more coverage from WXHC news.

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