TOWN OF GOUVERNEUR, N.Y. (WWNY) - Gouverneur has become a COVID-19 hotspot and an outbreak at the prison there is a big contributor.
COVID-19 is spreading in the town of Gouverneur. A St. Lawrence County Public Health map shows it has 96 active cases, by far the highest of any town in the county. And there may be more ahead.
“It’s the wintertime. Those are significant numbers and we haven’t hit the so-called scientific Christmas surge yet,” said Ronald McDougall, Gouverneur mayor.
Two-thirds of cases center on Gouverneur Correctional Facility. The Department of Corrections says 50 prisoners there have the virus. In addition, the union says 13 correctional officers have come down with it.
“Our biggest concern is our members’ well-being and the fact that...they can bring this back to their families,” said Michael Powers, New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association president.
The department says it has taken a number of steps. Intake from county jails has been suspended. The union and local officials successfully pushed to suspend prison visitation.
“For everybody’s health and safety: people who come to visit, our correctional officers, and our inmates. It protects everybody,” said McDougall.
The outbreak is impacting lives across the village and town. The municipal building is again closed to the public. Quarantines have left public works departments at times short-handed.
There is a ray of hope for Gouverneur and St. Lawrence County. COVID-19 test results are now coming back much faster these days.
Hospitals can now process the tests in-house. Before, test specimens had to be sent away. Health officials continue to push the “5 pillars of prevention.”
“If you’re ill, for goodness sake, stay home,” said McDougall.
Forty people in St. Lawrence County have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
Mayor McDougall says some of those victims have been from Gouverneur.