By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — In Sullivan County, where there is a public health department (paid for at least in part by Sullivan County taxes), advisories are issued, letting the public know where COVID-19 outbreaks have happened.
These are not all the outbreaks. Small gatherings, now thought to be a significant source of spread, aren’t included. Outbreaks at some businesses aren’t included.
The point of a public health advisory is more to do with contact tracing, said public health director Nancy McGraw.
Here’s how it goes: A person is diagnosed with COVID-19 and they are questioned on where they’ve been and whom they’ve been close to. If it’s not clear who was nearby (like in a restaurant) and whether those people wore masks, then an advisory is issued in the hopes that people will read it and monitor themselves for symptoms.
Businesses aren’t obligated to tell the community when there’s been an outbreak, especially if the business isn’t open to the public. CDC guidelines only require an employer to tell employees that there is a possibility of exposure, but confidentiality should be maintained. New York’s reopening guide asks employers to cooperate with contact tracing, “including notification of potential contacts, such as workers, visitors and/or customers (if known)” who had contact with the individual.
Beyond that, the county, state and the CDC all remind employees and the public how they’re supposed to behave in pandemic times. Mask up, social distance and follow current public health guidelines.
The county’s COVID-19 dashboard has been understandably popular. It has also drawn complaints. It’s only one small part of the department’s job, of course.
Determining daily case counts can be complicated. McGraw listed the reasons: Lab results drop multiple times a day, “information has to be validated and sorted through, verify that people are Sullivan County residents.” Duplicate results are filtered out.
It’s keeping her people busy, but dashboard-watchers will be happy to know they’re hiring a data-entry person to help.