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Officials: Fighting COVID requires all doing their part

As states began the process of reopening over the last six weeks, some areas across the country saw an uptick in positive COVID-19 cases. As a result, some reopening plans have been stalled or, in some cases, walked back.

For those still able to move forward with their reopening procedures, however, the attention is now turning toward how they can remain reopened and avoid another shutdown. To achieve as much, most local health officials agree that keeping gatherings small, wearing masks and maintaining 6 feet of social distance are the keys to ensuring a safe path forward.

“If we do all these things, we can keep the spread contained to a point where we can continue to have things open,” Dr. Joshua Meyerson, the medical director for three district health departments in Northern Michigan, said this week. “Our children should be in school in the fall, physically at the school, and we can keep our economy and our businesses open and operating. I think that’s really important for people to understand. It’s up to all of us.”

In New York, Essex County has “typically trended quite a bit lower” in the number of positive COVID-19 cases than other parts of the state, said Andrea Whitmarsh, public information officer for the county Health Department. But that doesn’t mean officials and residents can let their guards down.

“We want to make sure that we don’t have the kind of spikes” other areas have seen, Whitmarsh said. “We’re seeing little upticks here and there in surrounding counties.”

Essex County officials, she said, will continue to “try to hammer home the message” — wear masks, maintain social distance, and practice good hand hygiene.

Essex County and the rest of the North Country region are in Phase 4 of the New York reopening plan, which means, among other things, gatherings of as many as 50 people are allowed. But Whitmarsh said the rules aren’t a one-size-fits-all proposition.

“Even if it gets to something like 200, you really need to look at your own risk factors and your own vulnerability,” she said.

The Western New York region is also in Phase 4. Manufacturers have been ramping up since Phase 1 and seem to be doing well, but there are a lot of concerns about smaller businesses, said Todd Tranum, president and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce.

“There’s certainly been some businesses that have had financial challenges because of coronavirus and now are no longer in business,” he said.

“If we want to keep things open, we’ve got to … protect ourselves and protect others,” Tranum said. “The important thing is to remain diligent in our efforts around social-distancing, wearing masks.”

While mask orders came later in some states, New Yorkers have been required to wear them since mid-April.

“I think generally people have gotten accustomed to it and really kind of abiding by what has been a common-sense approach to this issue,” Tranum said. “It’s not about them; it’s about others around them.”

Going maskless into a store could potentially result in an individual spreading the virus and the business having to shut down temporarily, he said.

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