Yates County officials team up against COVID-19

Gwen Chamberlain
Yates County Office Building at 417 Liberty St., Penn Yan.

YATES COUNTY — Yates is one of six New York counties without a confirmed COVID-19 case as of March 25, according to Public Health Director Deb Minor. While local officials are encouraged by that news, they are still working to ensure the county is prepared for whatever situations develop in the coming days, weeks, and months.

Doug Paddock, chairman of the Yates County Legislature, told the other legislators and others who participated in an audio meeting Wednesday afternoon to be prepared for all levels of government to operate differently after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

During the online audio meeting, the legislators approved a resolution canceling the 1% interest charges on delinquent real property taxes for the month of April.

They also heard reports from members of the Coronavirus Task Force, which was formed March 13 to coordinate the local response to COVID-19. The group meets daily, now via teleconference.

The reports included:


• Minor reported that 23 Yates County residents have been tested for COVID-19, with 21 confirmed negative and two pending results. The two awaiting results remain under precautionary home quarantine until their results are received. There have been no positive test results for Yates County residents although one person remains under isolation here as a result of a positive test elsewhere.

• Minor and Deputy Director Sara Christensen will both appear on Open Mic on WFLR Thursday, March 26 at 8:30 a.m. to share more information with the public.

• Local officials maintain contact with state Department of Health and neighboring counties.


• Lina Brennan, representing Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital and Finger Lakes Health, reported that the hospital continues to accept patients in the Emergency Department, but is limiting access to specific floors within the hospital and visitors are being screened. She said the hospital's current capacity is 12 beds but that can be expanded to 24 based on staffing. The hospital has two ventilators on site with additional units available in Geneva.

• Brennan said donations of cleaners, hand sanitizers, and masks are greatly appreciated. There is still a need for N95 masks. To coordinate the donation of hand-made masks, call Sara Clayson at 585-259-5459 to request a pattern and recommended materials.


• Director of Emergency Management Brian Winslow says he participates in statewide conference calls.

• His office is distributing information on handling patients to all fire and emergency medical services leaders.

• His department has received shipments of hand sanitizer, 1,500 surgical masks, and two thermometers, and is waiting for delivery of other items.


• The Sheriff's Office has adjusted procedures in law enforcement and jail activities in response to the pandemic, and has enhanced the social media app to include a link to the CDC (Center for Disease Control).

Other departments that reported were Highway, Information Technology, Personnel, and Buildings & Grounds. The complete agenda and report is available at https://www.yatescounty.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_03252020-660.

The county has added a Coronavirus information page to its website at https://www.yatescounty.org/535/COVID-19. Links to state, national, and global COVID-19 websites are found there, as are listings of local contacts and the latest news from Yates County Public Health.

At the close of the meeting, Paddock illustrated concerns about the future, pointing to previous efforts to drive business to the state's Department of Motor Vehicles website, thus reducing Yates County's local revenues by $212,000 annually. He said those funds equal 1.3 percent of the local property tax levy.

Working to keep those dollars in local coffers, Yates County Clerk Lois Hall advises, "We will be here when this pandemic is over. Please mail things directly to the Penn Yan office for processing." She says she is currently processing items that are mailed to the local office in Penn Yan, which keeps a portion of the funds here.

But that's just one example of how things could change, notes Paddock, reminding others that local sales tax revenues will be down significantly this year because of the state of emergency.

As part of the effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Yates County Office Building will be closed to the general public beginning Thursday, March 26, 2020. However, all departments, except for the Historian’s office, continue to remain open, by appointment only.

Please call ahead. Department phone numbers can be found on our website at www.yatescounty.org. Deliveries to any office should be made at the Courthouse foyer.

We are focused on decreasing the density of employees while still delivering services to our residents.

Below is a message from our Public Health Director, Deb Minor about quarantines and self-isolation:

Yates County Public Health has been preparing for weeks for notification of positive cases of COVID-19 in our community. Public Health staff have also been monitoring those under home isolation while they wait for their test results to be received. Once notified of a positive case, a thorough contact investigation is launched to identify close contacts. Close contacts and those with positive test results remain under mandatory isolation or quarantine until such time as they are appropriate to be released based on New York State criteria. This criteria is based on exposure date, symptom onset, symptom improvement and test results. All individuals deserve privacy while we work with them to manage their symptoms.

We understand that this is an unsettling time. Positive cases of COVID-19 are expected, but together we can slow spread of the virus and protect those at highest risk for serious illness by following social distancing.

Thank you for your understanding in these unusual times.

Yates County Office Building closing to public March 26