Shed more light on it

Public health officials in Jefferson County said they would no longer issue infection exposure warnings to residents.

Publicizing information about where cases of the novel coronavirus have been documented in Jefferson County is becoming much more common.

Starbucks on Arsenal Street in Watertown has been closed since Nov. 15 due to a possible coronavirus exposure between Nov. 8 and Nov. 13. An employee tested positive, and the Jefferson County Public Health Department issued a warning for people who visited the business on those dates.

Nine employees of the Watertown Public Works Department had to be quarantined because one of them tested positive and was in contact with the others. The nine represent the department’s entire fleet maintenance division.

South Jefferson Central School District in Adams went to remote learning for two days after a staff member tested positive. This was the first case for the district.

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Brett T. Funck, commanding officer of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, recently said that infection rates on post have increased substantially since the end of October. New restrictions have been put in place.

A significant presence of the coronavirus has been detected at the wastewater treatment facility in Watertown. Specimens recently studied from the plant are “in line with the spike in cases currently happening in the county and are a prediction of increased cases and hospitalizations in the coming weeks,” health authorities said. This indicates that cases of infection in the region are much more widespread than previously suspected.

Jefferson County has refused to identify the number of positive cases recorded in each municipality. We’ve argued on this page that more transparency on this issue is vital to maintaining public safety.

Many other counties in New York break down cases by communities and towns. This allows people to make more-informed decisions about whether they want to visit specific areas.

Franklin, Lewis, Oswego and St. Lawrence counties all offer maps of where cases have been confirmed. This means that Jefferson County is alone in our region on refusing to make this data available.

The best advice is for people to remain home as much as possible. But many of often need to travel outside periodically, so it’s better to know where infection rates are more prevalent so we can avoid them.

There’s no need for people’s names or home addresses to be publicized. However, we deserve to know if one community has more recorded cases than another.

Jefferson County has resisted detailing this information for months now. It needs to follow the example of many other counties and disclose where cases of infection are occurring. Much of this news is being made public anyway, so trying to keep it under wraps at this stage makes no sense.

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(4) comments

millieanne

It's difficult to get the Public Health department to participate in transparency when its boss, the Jefferson County Legislature, has stated emphatically that they do not want businesses to close. When enough people are quarantined, who's going to be there to shop? Is money really more important than human lives? SOMEBODY will have to answer for this at some point. Can't wait to see who gets thrown under the bus for this decision!!!

zeitgeist

IF Jefferson county public health officials have decided they will not break down COVID-19 cases according to municipalities, and St. Lawrence county officials have decided they will no longer provide COVID-19 exposure warnings, because they are concerned about the potential damage to economies and businesses, they are going against the recommendations of public health experts. "Transparency during public health emergencies: from rhetoric to reality" by P. O'Malley, J. Rainford, A. Thompson. Local officials who work and wrestle with public health transparency should read it.

If public health information damages economies and businesses, then reciprocity is in order. Withholding or, as some might say, covering up public health information for the purpose of protecting economies and businesses is unethical.

Holmes

If you say so, but I think they’re bigger “unethical” issues in the world going on.

Empathy

Your assesment pretty much sums up our local government, but we are the public that votes them into office and gives them the power that they seem to thrive on.

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