New cases highlight how not to behave during coronavirus pandemic



Travel to hotspots, lax enforcement at chain stores and going out in public while sick.

These are the challenges Warren County says it’s facing in its fight to contain the coronavirus. While the county’s COVID-19 numbers are low compared to other nearby counties (new daily cases remain in the single digits, for example), they are trending up and county officials say these behaviors are why.

County Administrator Ryan Moore shared a handful of recent examples with the media on Thursday in hopes of highlighting for residents how not to behave during a pandemic.

Travel

Of the six new cases confirmed in the county overnight Thursday, all six stemmed from travel to areas with high concentrations of COVID-19, Moore said. One was exposed in Texas, another in Putnam County, and the remaining four in Rochester, he said.

The previous day, contact tracers determined that two county residents had been exposed to the virus by a visitor who had traveled into the area from a hotspot county.

Other recent cases have been traced to a party in another Capital Region county and travel to Western New York.


“Those are the past five days,” Moore said. “This pattern continues to play out as you go back further in time.”
 
Chain Stores

Moore said the county continues to see lax enforcement of mask and distancing guidelines at chain and big box stores throughout the county, including grocery stores and drug stores.

In the past three weeks, local residents have called in or filed complaints online about Hannaford, Walgreens, Family Dollar, Market 32, Walmart and a UPS distribution center. The complaints center around employees and customers who are not wearing masks, and managers who say they are unable to enforce the rule. This is not true, Moore said.

“Owners and managers have the legal right to refuse service and refuse entry for those not abiding by public health rules,” he said. “If they don’t want to do this, they are exposing their businesses and their customers to enforcement actions. We will take these actions if the general public provides us with evidence.”

Evidence could be pictures of violations taken by members of the public or sworn testimony from witnesses. Possible enforcement actions include building code violations, revocation of operating permits, court orders and fines, Moore said. The fine for failed mask compliance is $1,000 per incident and can be levied against the customer and business.

“Enforcement actions aren’t something anybody wants, including us,” he said. “The locally owned businesses in Warren County have been doing a great job maintaining public health standards. We commend them for this and ask the chains to join them.”

Irresponsible behavior

Moore also outlined a number of recent incidents — all in one household — in which individuals fell ill but then ventured out in public anyway, exposing others.

In this case, a member of the family had visited Rochester and returned home not feeling well, he said. Despite that, they then went out shopping to several local stores, he said.

The person’s spouse, a first responder, also fell ill but decided to attend a “prolonged” meeting with about six other first responders — all while not wearing a mask, he said.

Yet another member of the household fell ill, Moore said, but decided to teach an elementary class at the North Warren school district for three days and have lunch with a coworker on each of those days. That class and coworker have since been quarantined, he said.

In each case, the county’s public health department had to identify and contact people who were exposed to members of the household and arrange for quarantines.

“The message is fairly simple: if you don’t feel well, don’t act like this family,” Moore said. “Be respectful of your community, stay home and get tested.”



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