CANTON — St. Lawrence County Public Health Director Dana McGuire had a simple directive at a press conference held Wednesday to discuss the first confirmed case of COVID-19 found in St. Lawrence County.

Don’t panic.

“Please know that we have a strong process in place.” Ms. McGuire said. “When we find a positive case in the county it starts with a thorough interview and that cascades into several other interviews just to find all the contacts. The message stays the same regardless whether we have one or ten cases. Please stay calm.”

Officials learned of the county’s first confirmed COVID-19 case on Wednesday morning, and St. Lawrence County Administrator Ruth Doyle and Ms. McGuire released the news that same morning. 

The confirmed case is a person from St. Lawrence County. No additional information is being released at this time due to patient privacy laws.

The infected person had been self-isolating since symptoms began and is now in isolation, Ms. McGuire said. A quarantine for people with a positive test result requires monitoring by the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department twice daily.

On Wednesday afternoon, the health department reported there were 31 people in quarantine who were being monitored by the health department; approximately 234 people have been tested, of those, 130 tests have come back negative and 103 are pending.

Ms. McGuire said that tests were taking about seven days to be returned.

“We still have, I believe, 100 (tests) that are still pending, so we don’t know how many results we’ll get on a certain day,” she said.

“We are getting questions on ‘how do I know if I have been in contact with this person?’” she said. “We are doing contact tracing. What that means is we speak to the person, we ask for all the activities that they did in a certain day period, and for anyone that they identify that we need to contact, that’s what we’ll do.”

Ms. Doyle said in the Facebook Live broadcast Wednesday afternoon that there has been a great focus on preparation for first responders and for the hospitals. To make sure they have what they need to care for people. 

She said she had been overwhelmed by the response of volunteers who have been, among other things, delivering meals to senior citizens after the county shut down the congregate nutrition centers. 

“It is a great reminder of the way the north country handles crises. We take care of one another,” she said. 

Sheriff Brooks J. Bigwarfe said that his office had launched a mobile phone app to inform and listen to residents. 

“Most important is it has push notifications for emergencies,” he said of the app.

His office, he said, is fully operational.

“We are still out there 24-7 handling all the complaints that the citizens have in the county,” he said. “The services aren’t stopping. 

A number of county facilities are now closed to the public:

  • St. Lawrence County Court House
  • St. Lawrence County Public Safety Complex
  • St. Lawrence County Human Services Center
  • St. Lawrence County DMV Offices
  • St. Lawrence County Surrogate Building
  • All nutrition sites

Additionally, St. Lawrence Health Systems and Claxton Hepburn Medical Center are working together to implement testing criteria and plan for increased hospital capacity.

The Public Health Department urged county resident to follow these guidelines:

1. Even if you feel well, stay home! Travel only for essential needs such as medical, groceries and employment. In public, keep a distance of at least six feet from others.

2. Regularly self-monitor your own symptoms. Be on alert if you have a fever, cough or shortness of breath.

3. Self-isolate, or separate yourself, by using a separate bedroom and bathroom and avoid sharing all personal items. Maintain six feet between you and others if you have symptoms of fever, cough and/or shortness of breath, and/or if you have been tested for COVID-19.

4. Contact your provider if you need medical care; call ahead so they are ready for you.

5. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer.

6. Cover your cough and sneezes. Use your elbow or a tissue.

7. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

8. Clean and disinfect frequently touched and shared surfaces.

9. Parents, speak to your children about COVID-19; discuss the importance of these recommendations.

10. Take special caution to avoid exposing the elderly and people with underlying health conditions. Avoid visiting those most at risk, call instead. Offer help with groceries and other goods.

St. Lawrence/Franklin County Editor

Slowly self-propelled. Two-time cancer survivor. Nearly 30-year newspaper veteran.

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