Tioga County prepared as Coronavirus declared a pandemic

Tioga County prepared as Coronavirus declared a pandemicNews reports warned people to be prepared for a possible quarantine in the future by stocking up on needs at home. These reports appear to have led to a toilet paper shortage at many stores, as concerned residents purchased an abundance of items that include toilet paper, hand sanitizer, disinfectant sprays, wipes, and other household items. Pictured, Tops Markets in Owego was running low on toilet paper Thursday afternoon. In a statement, Kathy Sautter, public and media relations manager for Tops Markets, LLC, stated, “The health and well being of our customers and associates is our first priority.” In January, their internal “Tops Crisis Management Team” started the process of preparing for the COVID-19 event that had just started. Since then, the team has taken daily action to ensure increased supply of products coming into their warehouses and stores for customers to purchase. It is noted that Tops had a fresh supply of these items being stocked on Friday, but is asking patrons to limit the purchase of specific supplies to help with demand. (Photo by Wendy Post)

Tioga County health officials are working in tandem on the local and the state levels to ensure Tioga County is ready if and when the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, comes to the Southern Tier. While there have been no confirmed cases in Tioga County as of Wednesday, March 11, according to Heather Vroman, deputy health director for Tioga County Public Health, that hasn’t stopped preparation work in the slightest. 

“We are working collaboratively with New York State and our local health partners, including Tioga County Emergency Management and the medical reserve force, among others; this is a fluid situation, we want to make sure providers have the most current and up to date information,” Vroman said. 

Vroman stated that there are currently no cases of concern in Tioga County. 

“We are surveying and monitoring the situation on a daily basis,” Vroman said.

COVID-19 is a novel strain of coronavirus that is believed to have originated some time within the last year in Wuhan, China. The World Health Organization recently declared its outbreak a global pandemic.

As it stands the virus has spread across the globe, and as of March 11 has caused 115,000 confirmed cases resulting in roughly 4,000 deaths. Coronavirus is currently estimated to have a roughly 2 percent mortality rate. For comparison it has been stated by experts that the mortality rate for the flu, or influenza, over the previous 10 years has been .1 percent in the United States. 

A respiratory virus that causes mild symptoms in 80 percent of those infected, COVID-19 can be deadly for those over 60 and people with underlying respiratory conditions. Right now it is being recommended that people wash their hands, avoid touching their face, and avoid large crowds or gatherings of people. 

“We do recognize that some people think they have symptoms of a respiratory illness, and if they do we are urging them to call their healthcare provider ahead of time so they can take proper precautions in the office,” Vroman said. 

Locally, Vroman said she and the rest of the staff in the public health department have been training for situations like these. 

“Here at the health department we have a preparedness team that consists of the staff in the health department. We are prepared for any kind of emergency, flood or any pandemic; we actually practice those scenarios a couple times throughout the year. We recently simulated an anthrax situation,” Vroman added. 

Vroman stated she has been in contact with the county’s medical reserve corps, and has been using them to pass out flyers and make sure as much information is available to the public as possible. 

“They train with us sometimes as well, so they are ready to take on more if they have to,” Vroman said. 

As to supply or coronavirus testing shortages, Vroman said that has not been an issue so far in Tioga County. 

Along with the medical impact, COVID-19 has had drastic implications for international economic markets, nose-diving stock exchanges throughout the world and severely impacting the travel industry.

On Wednesday, March 11, President Donald Trump announced a travel ban would be enacted, preventing all travel to Europe with the exception of the United Kingdom, a country with confirmed cases of COVID-19, for a period of 30 days.

“It’s definitely a wait and see, we haven’t seen any economic impact at this point, that’s not to say that will remain the case, but we don’t have an airport or college here,” said LeeAnn Tinney, director of Tioga County Economic Planning and Development. 

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