COVID outbreak at Northern NY nursing home has community on high alert

Published: Aug. 26, 2020 at 6:14 PM EDT
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ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. (WCAX) - The COVID-19 numbers in Essex County, New York, continue to rise from the outbreak at the Essex Center nursing home. That has the community on high alert.

Now, a school is changing its reopening plans, visitation is halted at area hospitals and businesses are moving back to limiting people inside, just like we saw at the start of this pandemic.

Since last week, the Essex Center has seen 73 new COVID cases; 43 residents and 29 staff members have tested positive for the virus and four residents have died.

The case numbers are starting to leave the nursing home and spread to the surrounding community, with one new case coming from a close contact of a staff member.

At the Champlain National Bank, they have locked the doors to the lobby.

"Our decision was easy, we needed to stop the spread," said Jackie Hallock of the Champlain National Bank. "The health and well-being of our employees and this community are our number one priority."

The bank says they are moving to a drive-thru model for all 10 of their branches in Essex County and it will stay that way until COVID case numbers drop.

If a situation demands an in-person meeting inside the bank, they will make an exception but by appointment only.

"They are finding they can do pretty much everything through the drive-thru that they can do in the lobby," Hallock said.

Down the road at Boquet Valley Central School District, the district is making changes to their reopening plan just days before classes are set to start.

"We were carefully observing the numbers at the Essex Center certainly, but also we were monitoring the cases in the district, the community and in the region," Superintendent Josh Meyer said.

The school is moving to a fully remote model until October 5 after seeing the rise in cases in the county and a case within the district.

"It is a COVID case but it is not associated with Essex Center," Meyer said.

He says that parents question why five weeks of remote learning?

“We can really come up with a very solid, very comprehensive instructional model that I really think that we will be using at other points during the school year,” Meyer said.

He says the school will continue to provide meals to students for the week.

"All of our students will be provided with breakfast and lunch for free," Meyer said.

The Elizabethtown Community Hospital, the Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake and all nursing homes in the county have stopped visitations for the time being due to the outbreak.

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