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Fulton Center at epicenter of cases

Number of COVID-19 cases account for more than half of all cases in entire county

GLOVERSVILLE — Fulton County Public Health Director Laurel Headwell on Wednesday issued a press release stating there are now 199 confirmed cases of the coronavirus among county residents. More than half of those cases can be accounted for among residents and staff of the Fulton Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare where Headwell stated 109 residents and 21 staff members have been confirmed to have the virus.

Of the 199 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Fulton County, Headwell said a total of 78 residents have recovered from the virus and 17 residents have died.

Due to patient privacy laws, Headwell has largely been unable to provide details surrounding the infected, including where they are believed to have contracted the virus, typically issuing location information only in instances where the Fulton County Public Health Department was unable to trace every individual who may have come into contact with someone confirmed to have the virus who visited a site during a specific time period.

The county health department in April issued a release after being notified of a substantial outbreak of the coronavirus at the Fulton Center located at 847 County Highway 122 where 23 residents were initially confirmed to have the virus as of April 24.

Headwell, in Wednesday’s press release, pointed to the Fulton Center as the location where the largest number of individuals have tested positive for the virus to date, with 109 resident and 21 staff members testing positive for the coronavirus as of Wednesday. Among those individuals, Headwell stated a total of 15 Fulton Center residents have passed away due to the virus.

The data released by the county varies from statistics available from the state Department of Health, which is reporting 184 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the county based on testing data through midnight Tuesday and only six coronavirus deaths among Fulton Center residents.

Headwell previously addressed the variation between data reported by the county and by the state’s online COVID-19 Tracker, saying that she contacted the DOH seeking clarification and received the following response.

“This is a common set of questions. It is important to remember that the Tracker is not counting cases. It is counting the number of people tested and reporting out the number who test positive by PCR [coronavirus test]. Smaller counties can also be tracking Epi-linked, clinically confirmed, etc. It also reports out the county of record that is initially sent to [the Electronic Clinical Laboratory Reporting System]. Therefore, if a better address is located the [local health department] likely will be able to update [the Communicable Disease Electronic Surveillance System] for their case management. This change will not be reflected in the Tracker.”

Additionally, the DOH notes in its statistical reporting on coronavirus deaths at nursing homes that the information is based on data provided by individual facilities and does not reflect deaths from the virus that occurred outside of the facilities.

Headwell in her release noted that extensive testing for the coronavirus has been conducted at area nursing homes within the last eight to 10 days, with regular testing of staff members to continue under an executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on May 10 requiring all nursing home employees in the state to be tested for the virus at least twice a week. A spokesperson for the Fulton Center earlier this week stated that testing of all employees in compliance with the order would begin on Wednesday.

“These recent testing regimes have helped to identify the leading sources of infection and to project where the virus is most prevalent,” said Headwell.

While testing of residents and staff at nursing facilities has ramped up, testing has become more widely available to the public at large since Cuomo on April 25 issued an order expanding diagnostic testing criteria to include all healthcare workers, first responders and essential workers who work outside of their homes during the state stay at home order regardless of whether they are symptomatic as testing capacity in the state has increased.

Headwell noted that outside of the outbreak at the Fulton Center, the number of cases of confirmed coronavirus cases among the general population has so far remained low. But she went on to remind residents to continue following precautions required by the state and recommended by health officials to slow the spread of the virus, especially as the county gradually reopens.

“Since late April, spread in the Fulton County community at large has been small, including the number of persons requiring precautionary or mandatory quarantine, which is currently 31,” said Headwell. “Even as some portions of the economy are allowed to reopen … it is more important than ever to take precautions to stop the spread of the virus. Everyone can take steps such as frequently washing hands, maintaining 6 feet distance between people, staying home when ill and wearing face coverings in public to prevent the spread.”

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