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Oswego County managing influx of school-related COVID-19 cases

Thomas Favre-Bulle
via Flickr

COVID-19 cases are slowly starting to drop across the county, but in Oswego County, cases are still rising. The county reporter more than 500 new infections in the last week, with nearly 30% of those cases being school-related.

There have been over 550 school-related COVID-19 cases in Oswego County so far this academic year. The county’s senior public health educator, Diane Oldenburg, said that’s why the health department has decided to shift its local efforts towards managing those cases.

“Our staff that's in-house or working remotely is focusing on those school-aged kids or school-related,” she said.

The county’s supervising public health nurse, Jodi Martin, said treating and preventing COVID-19 in schools has been a priority for them since last school year.

“Our main goal is just to keep the children so that the students in school and to keep them safe while they're in school,” said Martin. “So we have been prioritizing school-related cases.”

Martin said they’ve been so inundated with cases compared to the summer months that they’ve had to hire additional contact tracers.

“We've hired some staff that work remotely for the health department and then we also work with New York State [which] has contact tracers that we can assign some cases to as well,” she said.

Because of the influx of cases since the start of school, the county has relied heavily on the state’s contact tracing to manage community cases. However, the state also laid off several contact tracers through the summer since there was a lull.

Martin says all of this has caused a very small backlog of cases for the remaining contact tracers, delaying that process by up to a week.

“So sometimes we'll get those test results in, the people had tested positive a week prior,” said Martin.

Oldenburg said if someone does test positive and doesn’t hear from the health department, the best thing they can do is call.

“We don't know what we don't have until somebody makes us aware that that lab report hasn't come into us yet,” she said.

Madison Ruffo received a Master’s Degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in audio and health/science reporting. Madison has extensively covered the environment, local politics, public health, and business. When she’s not reporting, you can find Madison reading, hiking, and spending time with her family and friends.