CARMEL, N.Y. - The Putnam County Department of Health (PCDOH) says that at this time there are no known cases of the novel coronavirus in Putnam and the risk to the general public remains low.

However, health officials said that should the risk of exposure increase, they are prepared to respond.

“When it comes to emergency preparedness, our county and community partners consistently work together to ensure our residents remain safe,” said County Executive MaryEllen Odell. “Regarding this particular health risk, our Bureau of Emergency Services, law enforcement, and health department remain up-to-date regarding the latest developments, and they maintain communication with Putnam Hospital Center, as well as other local health care providers.”

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 County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael J. Nesheiwat also reminded everyone that, “While novel coronavirus can cause severe illness, it is not an immediate health concern for Putnam residents. However, if there were a case, residents would hear about it directly from the department of health.”

“We are in daily contact with both the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) as well as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” Neisheiwat said. “We update our protocols under their direct guidance based on the most up-to-date developments.”

Testing for this new type of coronavirus is performed in cooperation with both the local and state departments of health. Both the county and state departments of health continue to work together to keep residents informed. For the most up-to-date information on coronavirus, visit www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/coronavirus/.

“Remember that the best way to prevent the spread of viruses is to avoid exposure and to practice hand hygiene,” Nesheiwat said. “The influenza virus continues to be widespread in our area, and it is not too late to get a flu vaccine.”

Health officials continue to recommend everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Meanwhile, Putnam Hospital Center officials continue to monitor the coronavirus and say they are prepared to provide the community with the safest, most current care and information.

The staff has taken several steps, in accordance with guidelines from the CDC, to ready the hospitals and outpatient practices for potential cases, including:

• Participating in local, state and federal discussions, webinars and collaborative emergency-management planning.

• Sharing information and best-practice clinical recommendations across the seven-hospital health system and offsite locations.

• Hosting Grand Rounds presented by global health and infectious disease experts to provide education and training for screening and infection control in accordance with CDC guidelines.

• Assessing the supply chain for specialty-equipment assets and needs.

• Identifying available negative pressure rooms to accommodate people under investigation requiring airborne isolation.

“Our multidisciplinary team across Nuvance Health (parent company of Putnam Hospital Center) is working closely together to ensure we are prepared for this quickly evolving outbreak,” said Dr. Valerie Cluzet, infectious disease specialist for Nuvance Health. “Effective communication and staying informed are both essential to preventing the spread of communicable diseases.”

“Our preparedness for potential [coronavirus] cases is comprehensive and standardized across our health system, with the safety and health of our patients, visitors, staff and communities underlying all of our efforts,” adds Dr. Paul Nee, another infectious disease specialist with Nuvance. “We will continue to seek CDC best-practice information to guide our system response.”

As of Feb. 6, there have been 12 coronavirus cases confirmed in the United States, in Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington and Wisconsin. Approximately 76 Americans are being tested for the virus.

In addition to the CDC guidelines specific to the coronavirus, Nuvance Health has strict protocols for patients presenting to any medical facility with a fever, cough or rash. If any of these symptoms are present, patients are urged to wear masks before entering the facilities. If they are not wearing masks, patients will be asked upon registering if they have any of these symptoms and if they have traveled in the past 30 days to regions with a concern for communicable diseases. If they answer yes, they will be given a surgical mask and isolated in a separate room for evaluation. 

The CDC is updating information on its website daily. Stay informed by visiting www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html.