Public Health Director urges people to take virus seriously

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 April 2020 at 6:55 pm

‘We’re asking the public to do their part, even if it’s painful, even if it’s something you don’t want to do. Maybe you don’t really believe or you don’t want to hear that this is a significant issue for us. We’re all in this together.’ – Paul Pettit

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Village of Albion last week closed Bullard Park to the public to fight the spread of the coronavirus in the community. Many communities have closed parks, especially playgrounds during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The public health director in Orleans and Genesee counties is urging all residents in the community to take the coronavirus seriously.

Paul Pettit, the public health director, said big increase in cases in the two counties in the past few days shows people are not adhering to social distancing with many going to stores, work and public places, sometimes while they are symptomatic.

In Orleans County, the number of cases has increased from 9 on Friday to 17 today. In Genesee County, the confirmed cases is up from 21 on Friday to 44 today.

“We’re asking you all, we’re asking the public to do their part, even if it’s painful, even if it’s something you don’t want to do,” Pettit said. “Maybe you don’t really believe or you don’t want to hear that this is a significant issue for us. But we’re all in this together, we live together, we play together, we work together. This is something that we all have to be part of to be successful and continue to flatten the curve and push this out so we don’t continue to have a spike in cases.”

Pettit said the Health Departments in the two counties receive many calls from the community about people congregating and not observing social distancing.

This week is Public Health Week in the state. Pettit said the local health departments have dedicated and hard-working staff. But Pettit said the community’s health, especially during this pandemic, depends on everyone doing their part.

“Public health is not about one person, it’s not about an agency or a government bureaucracy doing their work,” Pettit said. “Public health is about all of us together in our community. We’re going to be as healthy as we’re going to be, we’re going to be as a sick as we’re going to be as a result of the actions we take today, as a result of the way we come together and look at this as a community wide issue.”

“I call on every single of you that we are all public health, we’re all in this together, and we need to take this very seriously, and make sure we adhere to the guidelines and the guidance before so we make sure we can get through this difficult situation in front of us as quickly as we can,” Pettit said.

The best defense against Covid-19? Stay home as much as possible, Pettit said.

The Health Department provided the following update this afternoon:

Going out for essentials – recommendations

• If you have to pick up essential items such as groceries or prescriptions, only one member of the household should be going out. Make a list ahead of time to limit your exposure in the store. Maintain at least 6 feet of distance between you and other people.

• Do not bring in unessential items such as purses, phones, etc. These items can carry germs from the store and back home with you. Wash your hands frequently and use a cloth face shield to protect yourself and others from spreading the virus.

Businesses and Employers

• Essential businesses must continue to comply with the guidance and directives for maintaining a clean and safe work environment issued by the New York State Department of Health and every business, even if essential, is strongly urged to maintain social distance to the extent possible.

• As an employer or business, it is your responsibility to protect your workforce and to follow and understand guidance as it pertains to Covid-19. The health and safety of your employees should be your utmost concern.

Below are some things to consider:

• Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. Develop policies that encourage sick employees to stay at home without fear of repercussions, and ensure employees are aware of these policies.  There is a lot of guidance and information available to businesses and employees in regards to coverage of wages and protections related to Covid-19

• Provide education and training materials in an easy to understand format and in the appropriate language and literacy level for all employees, like fact sheets and posters.

• If an employee becomes sick while at work, they should be separated from other employees, customers, and visitors and sent home immediately. Follow CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting areas the sick employee visited.

• Have conversations with employees about their concerns. Some employees may be at higher risk for severe illness, such as older adults and those with chronic medical conditions.

• The Governor has established the New York State PAUSE Enforcement Assistance Task Force where individuals can file complaints regarding the operation of non-essential businesses or gatherings 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Click here to file a complaint online. You may also call 1-833-789-0470. Businesses that are not in compliance with the Governor’s executive order may be penalized.

• If you believe your employer is in violation of either existing labor laws or recently issued executive orders, please contact the New York State Attorney General’s office at (212) 416-8700 or

Use of Cloth Face Coverings

• The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies). The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.

Recent studies have suggested that Covid-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms. Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing or proper hand washing.

• The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

• Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

The cloth face cover should:

• fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face

• be secured with ties or ear loops

• include multiple layers of fabric

• allow for breathing without restriction

• be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

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