Steuben County “ready to meet reopening criteria”, doing more nursing home tests

Corning Bureau

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STEUBEN COUNTY, N.Y. (WETM) – Steuben County Manager Jack Wheeler said on a conference call Thursday afternoon that Steuben County “is ready to meet reopening criteria” set by Governor Cuomo.

There are a number of metrics laid out by the Governor’s office, including testing. The county’s understanding based on testing capacity is that they have met that requirement based on the number of hospitals in the area.

There are still questions regarding whether the Governor’s office wants to see either the region’s testing capacity or the number of tests done per day in the area, which would be 715. Chemung County Executive Christopher Moss is leading the Southern Tier region in making sure they are ready to reopen when the Governor examines their plans in mid-May.

Wheeler notes that the county is working to hire about 19 more “tracers” to help follow up with cases and contact people who may have come in contact with a patient. Already the county has 10 tracers and has received help from the Steuben County Sheriff’s Office.

In addition, the county is working on conducting comprehensive testing at their final two nursing facilities, the Corning Center and the Steuben Center. Testing has already been completed or is underway at Hornell Gardens, Elderwood at Hornell, Harriett Taylor, and Three Rivers.

The county hopes to have the testing done at those final two facilities, with assistance from local hospitals, by next week with approximately 500 tests needed to be conducted.

When the pandemic first began the county received 150 tests and received more, but they do not have the ability to conduct the comprehensive testing on their own.

In the case of a person who was symptom free and later retested positive, Public Health Director Darlene Smith says that they believe the patient remained positive for the virus when their symptoms went away and it’s unlikely they fully recovered and contracted the virus a second time.

To date, Steuben County has 241 cases with 184 people in isolation, 137 recovered, and 38 deaths, 29 of which came from nursing home residents. New York is currently only reporting nine nursing home fatalities in Steuben County despite there facilities and the county reporting many more deaths.

Wheeler says the state’s methodology is “obviously flawed” and he thinks the state’s information “is certainly inaccurate.” Public Health Director Darlene Smith agreed, saying that “we feel pretty confident in our data” regarding nursing home deaths.

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