Thursday evening update: COVID-19 impacts on the north country

Thursday evening update: COVID-19 impacts on the north country
Coronavirus (Source: MGN Online)

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the north country, but its effects are being felt here in a variety of ways.

The biggest news came from Governor Andrew Cuomo, who announced New York will ban most gatherings of more than 500 people beginning at 5 p.m. Friday due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the state.

The news came as organizers decided to postpone the North Country Goes Green Irish Festival, which was planned for this weekend.

Some local organizations are cancelling events out of concerns for the disease.

Because COVID-19 is especially dangerous for the elderly, Governor Cuomo Thursday announced a ban on most visits to nursing homes. In St. Lawrence County, officials at United Helpers senior and rehabilitation facilities said they’re fully on board with that. (Samaritan’s Keep Home and Samaritan Summit Village in Watertown are also restricting visitors from visiting residents until further notice.) And it’s not just nursing homes moving to protect seniors. St. Lawrence County’s senior nutrition program has stopped serving meals in dining rooms.

Speaking of St. Lawrence County, the Public Health Service announced 7 people are in quarantine related to concerns about the new coronavirus.

In a phone interview from Washington, D.C. Thursday afternoon, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik told 7 News she has two major concerns: testing and the outbreak’s effect on the economy.

Meanwhile, schools in the north country are taking precautions. We learned that South Jefferson Central School District turned off its water fountains and Massena Central School District suspended its attendance recognition.

As of shortly before noon Thursday, Jefferson County Public Health Service said the second person tested for COVID-19 does not have the disease and a specimen for a third person was sent to a lab for testing on Wednesday.

Also around noon, Fort Drum announced 40 soldiers returning from South Korea will be quarantined for 14 days. It’s a precaution, as none of them are showing symptoms.

St. Lawrence County Sheriff Brooks Bigwarfe announced Thursday morning he’s closing the jail to visitors for 30 days to protect inmates and staff from possible contamination. Any further suspension of visits will be evaluated at the end of that period.

St. Lawrence County’s Office for the Aging is closing its eight adult meal sites. The sites serve people 60 years old or older, a group at high risk for the disease. The office will continue it home-delivered meal service.

Tedra Cobb, the Democrat running for the north country’s congressional seat, is asking anyone at risk carrying nominating petitions for her to stop. That includes people over 60 and anyone with a chronic illness. Everyone else on her team should use precautions as outlined by health officials.

Thursday night, Clarkson University in Potsdam announced students should be prepared to move to online instruction starting March 23. Clarkson is the last north country college to make the jump from in-person classes to online.

As far as other college, all State University of New York campuses -- including Jefferson Community College, SUNY Potsdam, and SUNY Canton -- will finish their spring semester with as many online courses as possible.

SUNY Potsdam and Canton students are currently on break. JCC's break will start on March 19, earlier than originally scheduled.

Both St. Lawrence University and Syracuse University are suspending on-campus classes.

Here’s our wrap-up of coronavirus-related news in the north country as of Wednesday evening.

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