CARTHAGE — A non-clinical staff member at Carthage Area Hospital was diagnosed with the second confirmed case of COVID-19 in Jefferson County on Sunday morning.
Hospital Chief Executive Officer Richard A. Duvall said the person, a county resident, is now in isolation and everyone at the hospital who came into direct contact with the person was put on quarantine for seven days, a step Mr. Duvall said was beyond the “appropriate policies and procedures” required by state protocols.
“We decided to err on the side of extreme caution to make sure our staff and patients are safe. We knew this was going to happen eventually and we were as prepared as we could possibly be,” he said.
Public Health representatives also notified the only two members of the public believed to have come into contact with the staff member of their potential exposure to the virus, Mr. Duvall said.
Although Mr. Duvall emphasized the hospital and emergency room continue to be “open for business,” providing healthcare the community needs, they are continuing to monitor the situation.
Also over the weekend, Oswego County confirmed its first two cases.
Even with the addition of those three newly confirmed novel coronavirus cases in the north country, there has not yet been a sharp increase like those in urban areas around the state and country as a whole. At least not so far.
Part of the reason for that discrepancy could also be the delay for test results, which averages to be about five days, and testing is just starting to ramp up in the north country.
As Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo emphasized in his Monday morning press conference that more testing will lead to more positive results. But none of the tests that have come back so far in Lewis and St. Lawrence counties have been positive.
Lewis County had conducted a total of 36 tests as of Monday morning, with 22 negative results. There are 24 people quarantined in the county and 14 individuals waiting for results.
St. Lawrence County has tested about 195 people with 75 negative results and 120 results pending. As of Monday afternoon, there were 12 people under quarantine.
On Sunday, a map presented during Gov. Cuomo’s press conference showed three new counties in the state with confirmed cases, and St. Lawrence County was one of those counties. But the St. Lawrence County Health Department, through its Facebook messenger, reported the map that displayed the county as having a positive case was incorrect.
In Jefferson County, 204 people have been tested and quarantined with results pending, 46 of them being Fort Drum soldiers who had been deployed to South Korea.
Sixty-one tests have come back negative in the county, according to Public Health Planner Stephen A. Jennings, in addition to the two confirmed cases.
Of the 143 tests conducted as of Monday at 4:30 p.m. in Oswego County, 85 have been negative, two positive and 56 are awaiting results. According to the Public Health Department in that county, 70 people are in precautionary quarantine while six others are in mandatory quarantine.
Those statistics, compared to urban areas near and far, are not increasing as dramatically or as quickly.
The first case in Jefferson County was confirmed five days before the second. But Onondaga County, with Syracuse as its largest city, had its first case confirmed on March 16. Now a week later, there are about 50 people diagnosed with the disease.
New York City has gone from its first confirmed case on March 1 to more than 12,000 people with confirmed diagnoses in just 23 days.
COVID-19 is more prevalent in big cities with more dense populations, Mr. Jennings said.
The north country is mostly rural and people are more isolated than in population centers across the country, he said, but area public health services are prepared for the increase of confirmed cases when it comes.
Going forward, Jefferson County will join Lewis, St. Lawrence and Oswego counties in providing at least one daily testing update, Mr. Jennings said, and like the other counties, they will not report the location of those who are infected.
“I actually want to share as much as we can, but with HIPAA (privacy laws) and patient protection, we can’t give too much,” Mr. Jennings said.
According to Gov. Cuomo’s Monday press conference, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state jumped to more than 20,000, which is up over 5,700 people from the previous day. There have been 157 deaths in the state thus far.
No new cases were confirmed in the north country on Monday.