We spoke with public health officials and hospital representatives on Friday about commonly asked questions about coronavirus, COVID-19 and how best to protect yourself from exposure to the virus.
Q: What are the best ways to protect yourself from coronavirus infection?
Franklin County Manager Donna Kissane: “Following the guidance … a minimum of 6 feet social/physical distancing, washing hands regularly, use of hand sanitizer, clean surfaces, face masks, etc.”
Q: Is coronavirus airborne?
Kissane: “This is still being researched, however, the experts report that the transmission of the virus is spread by droplets — so if someone sneezes or coughs and projects it, it would be airborne.”
Q: How long can coronavirus last on a surface? Does it vary depending on the type of surface?
Kissane: “Yes, the virus can last from several hours to several days, depending on the type of surface. This is why implementing all of the precautionary measures is very important.”
Q: Is it safe to hike or take a walk outside without a mask?
Kissane: “Yes, it is safe, but social/physical distancing must be maintained and always prepared to wear a mask, so a person is prepared if they come in close contact with someone who is not residing in the same home during their outside trek.”
Q: When do I need to wear a mask?
Kissane: “A mask is worn when social distancing cannot be maintained. If someone has a medical condition whereby they cannot wear a mask, it is highly recommended that they maintain minimally 6 feet of social distancing. Even when social distancing practices are being adhered to, people should remember that research is still occurring regarding airborne and length of time droplets remain in the air.”
Q: Why might some of this advice (such as the recommendation to wear a mask) have changed since the pandemic started?
Kissane: “Every day new information is being collected and research is occurring. Each day we learn more about the virus. As a result, recommendations have changed and we anticipate as results from research become available, more recommendations will be forthcoming.”
Q: Can people without health insurance get tested?
Adirondack Health spokesman Matt Scollin: “Yes. We are a mission-based organization. This is an all-hands-on-deck public health effort.”
Scollin added that the hospital needs to shore up some revenue from conducting the tests to try to bridge the budget hole left by the pandemic, to pay for things like employee pay and materials. Tests are free to everyone who qualifies for one. The hospital bills insurance companies for those who have insurance, and New York has blocked insurance companies from in turn charging people for getting tested. In the case of a person without health insurance, Adirondack Health will attempt to bill the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, though it’s unclear if it will be reimbursed.
Alice Hyde Medical Center spokesman Phillip Rau: “Yes, however, they would need to pay the cost of testing ($125-$130) out of pocket. Additionally, because a provider’s order is required to get tested, the individual would likely incur costs associated with an office, walk-in or urgent care visit, in order to acquire that order.”
Q: When a person is tested for COVID, what happens next? Are they immediately sent into quarantine?
Kissane: “Quarantine is not a result from all testing. Quarantine is used when someone has been in contact with someone who has tested positive or is a probable positive, but does not have symptoms yet. It is a precautionary measure. Isolation occurs when someone has symptoms and has been deemed as a probably positive based on symptoms prevalent in COVID-19 patients. There is some discretionary decisions made based on a person’s situation as to whether or not they go into quarantine. All are provided with education around precautionary measures to mitigate the chance of infection of others if symptoms should appear at a later date. The opportunity for tests has increased, so it is recommended that testing occur especially if there is concern about exposure.”
Q: Is anyone currently hospitalized for COVID-19 at the hospital?
Scollin: “No. However, once we got an expanded testing supply from Trudeau Institute, we started testing every admission to the hospital no matter what you’re there for. That’s just because we have the test kits, so why not have that extra layer of comfort?”
Elizabethtown Community Hospital spokeswoman Elizabeth Rogers: “Two post-acute COVID patients, transferred to ECH for inpatient rehabilitation. We are well-suited to provide care for these patients in a safe and isolated environment. And we have a great deal of experience providing patients recovering from acute illness with in-hospital nursing care and physical therapy.”
Q: When was the last time someone was hospitalized with COVID-19 at the hospital?
Scollin: “Friday, April 24.”
Rau: “Alice Hyde has only had one COVID-19-positive patient. That patient was hospitalized and discharged in mid-April.”
Q: What is the best resource for up-to-date information on COVID-19?
Kissane: “Multiple sites are available such as NYSDOH (New York State Department of Health, at www.health.ny.gov), CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at www.cdc.gov), and Johns Hopkins (Johns Hopkins University, www.jhu.edu).”
COVID-19 testing is now available for workers deemed essential by New York state, those with symptoms, those whose return to work hinges upon a negative result, those ordered by their doctor or a county health department to get tested, prison inmates and corrections officers, nursing home residents and staff, and hospital inpatients.
Those who want to be tested in this area are encouraged to call their primary care physician to get a health order for testing, or call Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake at 518-897-2462 to schedule an appointment at the main clinic or one of its upcoming mobile testing sites. Elizabethtown Community Hospital can be reached at 518-873-3069; its Ticonderoga campus can be reached at 518-585-3927. Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone can be reached at 518-481-2700. Mountain Medical, with offices in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, also has tests available; its main phone number is 518-897-1000. The statewide COVID-19 hotline is 1-888-364-3065.