Washington County has declared a state of emergency resulting in the closure of all non-essential departments.

By PJ Ferguson

Washington County’s first positive test for the novel coronavirus was confirmed Wednesday morning and the county, which had earlier declared a state of emergency, held an emergency meeting and established an incident management team consisting of departments of public health, public safety, the county attorney, the county administrator, and the chairman of the board of supervisors.

As a result, some significant measures were implemented. The Municipal Center closed at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 18. Previously, DMV and other services were available by appointment but their operations have ceased until further notice.

Only the departments of public health, public safety and the sheriff’s office are considered essential departments. All other departments have been deemed non-essential and employees of those departments have been sent home.

“In recognition of the dedication and additional personal risk taken by employees mandated to report to work during an emergency closure, all such employees shall be paid at a rate of one-and one-half times their standard pay,” the county wrote in their emergency closure plan.

All other non-essential employees will continue to receive their full wage and will not use their accrued benefit time.

County attorney and public information officer Roger Wickes said other departments will operate on a limited basis, including child protection services and probation.

Wickes confirmed that arrangements were being made to keep the food pantry operating and SNAP benefits meted out.

“Keep an eye on the website to see where and what is going on,” said Wickes.

The team is planning to meet daily to assess the situation and further implement preventative and responsive measures.

This order by the county is in place for the next 30 days, however, Wickes acknowledged that it is likely the order will have to be renewed as New York State projects that the outbreak will not peak until at least the end of April.

The name and location of the individual who tested positive for the coronavirus could not be released due to HIPPA laws.

“People should act the same whether it is their next-door neighbor or someone at the other end of the county,” said Wickes.

Wickes could confirm that protocol calls for the person’s work to be released if they would come in contact with numerous strangers, such as a cashier. However, that is not believed to be the case for this individual.

Thirty-three people are currently under investigation in the county with several under precautionary quarantine.

While those quarantined are required to pay for the measure themselves, the county does provide groceries, laundry, etc., as needed by request.

“I’ve been here 25 years and have never done anything like this,” said Wickes.

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