LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Back in January, the New York State Department of Health stepped in to take over some county-level responsibilities in regard to tracking and managing COVID-19 infections within the state. Four months later, some of that responsibility is now back in county hands.
On Monday, Warren County Health Services Director Ginelle Jones announced that the county was starting its own outreach to those diagnosed with COVID-19, after the DOH announced that they were ceasing that outreach at the state level. Reaching out creates a point of contact between patients and caregivers who can answer questions and share resources.
“I’m assuming at this point in the pandemic – whether it be a safe assumption or not – that most people know what to do if they have COVID, or if they’re exposed to COVID,” said Jones on Tuesday. “We’re just trying to reach out through that well-check, to see if there are sensitive situations or needs in people who are identified with COVID.”
Responsibilities taken over by the state in January also included contact tracing. The DOH prioritized groups older than 60, and those under 18.
The county got word that both contact tracing and outreach were coming to an end last month. It wasn’t good timing, with case rates on a rise that has continued into the start of May. As of Monday, Warren County’s positive coronavirus test result rate stood at 9.2%, compared to 3.9% on April 1. That was only one problem.
“A lot of our contact tracers have been freed up, or back in college, and have gone about their normal lives,” said Jones. “When the state took over those responsibilities, they weren’t doing them.”
A large amount of the department’s staff is dedicated to running the county’s daily testing clinics and weekly vaccine clinics, all held at the municipal center in Lake George. What effort can be spared goes to checking up on those who have been newly diagnosed, a process which the county just took on as of Monday.
When they get those phone calls, many COVID-positive residents thus far have voiced appreciation for the check-in, but have otherwise had a good idea of what they needed. The county has been diligent and vocal in the promotion of its coronavirus information hub, an online resource that includes details on where to get at-home test kits, as well as schedules for upcoming clinics. For those who have tested positive, the website contains isolation and quarantine forms, Q&A sections on isolation for adults and students, and a list of helplines that includes mental health assistance, victim advocacy, and NY Project Hope.
Now that the welfare of those residents is back in the county’s hands, busy as it makes the Health Services department, there is a sense of the county being able to care more directly for its people again. Jones and her staff were appreciative of the state coming in to directly help in the fight against the virus, but there’s nothing like taking care of your own neighbors.
“As a county – and also anybody who knows me as a bit of a control freak – I like knowing that our people are okay and cared for,” Jones said. “The easiest way to assure that is to be the closest person to your people. I think it’s natural to feel a little stressed that other people are doing your work. I’m happy to now have it back in our hands.”
Meanwhile, that 9% positive test rate is well on Jones’ mind – and it shows no sign of going away. The department has seen upticks in coronavirus cases spread evenly across the board, from healthcare to retail, group homes to community centers.
The state’s footprint in the local COVID-19 fight is not gone completely. A state-run COVID-19 vaccine site remains in operation three days a week at the Aviation Mall in Queensbury.