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Franklin County confirms 2nd case

37,000 statewide have now tested positive

SARANAC LAKE — A second case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Franklin County on Thursday, bringing the countywide total up to two.

The person was tested at Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone on Wednesday, according to Franklin County Public Health Director Kathleen Strack. The department is now in the process of getting in touch with those who may have been exposed to the virus and assessing the risk of exposure to the public.

“I think there definitely could be some community spread going on,” Strack said. Community spread refers to cases where the source of a person’s exposure to the virus is unclear.

“We expect that in a pandemic like this. So far we’ve been able to provide only limited testing, so it’s hard to make extrapolations based on the data we have now,” she said.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons on Thursday confirmed that a staff member at FCI Ray Brook had tested positive for COVID-19. It was not immediately clear if Franklin County’s new case is the FCI Ray Brook employee or a different case. Where the staff member was tested, and what county that staff member lives in, was not released by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Essex County did not announce any new positive COVID-19 cases Thursday. The total number of confirmed cases remained at five.

New York state surpassed 37,000 cases on Thursday, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The United States, as of Thursday, had more confirmed coronavirus cases than any other country in the world, according to the New York Times. An early indication of the economic toll of the coronavirus came on Thursday in a report from the U.S. Department of Labor. The report showed that nearly 3.3 million unemployment claims were filed last week, compared to 200,000 claims three weeks ago.

Spread continues

As local hospitals prepare for an anticipated increase in patients seeking care and elected officials encourage visitors not to travel here, the coronavirus continues to spread throughout New York state.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide rose to 37,258 by Thursday afternoon, an increase of more than 6,400 from Wednesday, according to the New York Times. The majority of those cases, 21,000, were in New York City, where thousands of people are being tested every day. In the North Country, tests have largely been limited to hospital inpatients as hospitals try to conserve limited testing supplies.

Cuomo said on Thursday that hospitals with the capacity to test for coronavirus should be testing for coronavirus, but not all hospitals have that capacity.

Deaths across the state tied to coronavirus jumped by 100 between Wednesday and Thursday, according to Cuomo, putting the total number of deaths statewide at 385. At least 365 deaths were in New York City, according to NYC Health and Hospitals.

At his daily press briefing in Albany on Thursday, Cuomo said one factor contributing to the rising death toll is the length of time some patients are staying on ventilators, which hospital officials say are in short supply, before dying of respiratory failure.

“The longer you are on a ventilator, the more probability of a bad outcome,” he said. “We now have people who have been on a ventilator for 20 days, 30 days.”

Asked whether patients from city hospitals — such as Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, which was operating at more than 125% capacity as of Thursday — would be transferred to hospitals upstate, Cuomo said patients would sooner be transferred to other hospitals within the same region.

“We have more overflow capacity,” he said.

Transferring patients from one end of the state to another would have “practical consequences,” he said, like family members being separated from one another.

“I’m not eager to redistribute people from downstate to upstate,” he said. “That’s the last option.”

Cuomo: No travel ban

Both Franklin and Essex counties this week urged visitors from downstate and second-homeowners not to travel here.

Essex County Board of Supervisors Chairman Shaun Gillilland and Franklin County Legislature Chairman Donald Dabiew said in nearly identical news releases that doing so would ultimately result “in an inordinate strain upon the resources of public health, first responders, health care providers, our hospitals and other government personnel” if the number of coronavirus exposures were to increase.

Asked about the directives from upstate counties for downstate residents, Cuomo said “counties can come up with any suggestions they want.”

“I don’t have any travel ban on my agenda,” he said.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday urged those passing through or leaving New York City to self-quarantine for two weeks.

Asked if he agreed with that recommendation, Cuomo said he wasn’t a doctor and referred to comments made on Wednesday by Dr. Howard Zucker, the state’s health commissioner.

“I would not follow that,” Zucker said. “I believe that you should follow the (CDC) guidelines in general. They should social distance, and if you’re in New York and you go somewhere else — these cases are all over the country, it’s not just New York.”

On Tuesday, in response to a question about whether he would self-quarantine, Cuomo suggested that Pence’s recommendation didn’t apply to people who passed through New York City heading to other areas of New York state.

“If you are in New York City, you must quarantine in New York state,” he said. “You don’t have to go back to New York City to quarantine. I am going to quarantine in New York state.”

Quarantine

Essex County Health Department Public Information Officer Andrea Whitmarsh provided some insight into the county’s quarantine process on Thursday.

“Anyone placed under an isolation or quarantine order receives daily follow-up and monitoring from the health department,” she said. “Individuals placed under isolation are those with confirmed cases of COVID-19. At this time, confirmed cases are only those people with a lab-confirmed positive result; not those who were unable to access testing.”

Dozens of people have received negative test results and were cleared to leave quarantine.

As of Thursday 28 people were in quarantine in Franklin County, down from more than 60 the day before, according to county Manager Donna Kissane.

Altogether, 56 Franklin County COVID-19 tests have come back negative, according to Kissane. There were also several people listed as being in quarantine who were not tested, but were released from quarantine after having stayed in isolation for the recommended 14 day period.

In Essex County, three people were removed from mandatory quarantine on Thursday, bringing the total number of people down to 11. Twenty-two people, four more than Wednesday, were in precautionary quarantine. Countywide, 55 people have tested negative for coronavirus.

“The only individuals placed under quarantine are those with known recent international travel or (with) known close or proximate contact with someone who has a confirmed (via lab test) case of COVID-19,” Whitmarsh said. “Individuals who are seen by a healthcare provider for COVID-19 symptoms and who are not tested, but receive the recommendation to self-isolate because of suspect COVID-19, are not tracked or monitored by our health department at this time.”

People who are asked to self-isolate by their healthcare provider should stay at home, separate themselves from other family members in the home and use a separate bedroom and bathroom, not go to work or school, and not use public transportation or go to public places, according to Whitmarsh. The person in isolation should avoid inviting visitors into their home. People who live in the same home as someone who has symptoms of coronavirus should also self-isolate.

“These are the best tools we have to flatten the curve, reduce the spread, and balance hospital capacity with need, short of testing everyone with symptoms,” Whitmarsh said.

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