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Best defense from virus: social distancing, frequent hand washing

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 March 2020 at 5:20 pm

If feeling sick or develop symptoms, stay home, Health Department director says

Paul Pettit

ALBION – Now that there is confirmation of the coronavirus in Orleans County, Public Health Director Paul Pettit said residents can protect themselves with social distancing (staying at least six feet apart) and by washing their hands often with soap and water.

People should make sure they wash their hands thoroughly especially after blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.

The Health Department also advised of the following:

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

• Avoid people who are sick.

• Disinfect high-traffic surfaces often.

If you have questions about recent travel and symptoms regarding COVID-19, call the NYSDOH Coronavirus hotline: 1-888-364-3065.

Pettit reported this afternoon the county has its first confirmed case: a person over age 60 from the western end of the county. That person is currently out of state and tested positive for the virus after developing symptoms for a respiratory infection.

“The individual is in mandatory isolation where they are recovering,” Pettit said. “This incident is a good example as to the spread of this virus from location to location.”

The Orleans County Department of Health has begun an intensive investigation to identify potential close contacts of the individual before they left on vacation and it is believed to be a community spread transmission.

Some close contacts have been notified of their potential exposure to COVID- 19, placed under mandatory quarantine to monitor for symptoms and swabbed as indicated. Public Health Officials are implementing contact tracing to identify other potential individuals who have had close contact.

Pettit didn’t detail the exact age of the infected person, the town where he/she lives or the person’s gender. The Health Department wants to respect people’s privacy.

He said the Department will release which section of the county a positive case comes from. Genesee County had its first confirmed case on Wednesday. That person lives on the east side of Genesee, Pettit said.

The Health Department leader said the health officials locally and in the region want more tests to see if people have the virus.

“We continue to be frustrated by lack of swabbing kits available,” he said. “We want more kits because we know community spread is happening.”

The Health Department is working to establish drive-through swabbing clinics in Orleans and Genesee counties, and also is working with the local hospitals – Medina Memorial Hospital in Medina and United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia – to increase the number of hospital beds.

Medina Memorial has 19 right now, and could add more using other space in its facility, Pettit said.

“We are trying to ramp up and be prepared,” he said.

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