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County Leaders and Local Health Officials Address Challenges to COVID Response Posed by State Budget Cuts and Hot-Spot School Testing Requirements

NYSAC hosted a virtual press conference with county leaders and local health officials.
As New York responds to a resurgence of coronavirus hot-spots, NYSAC hosted a virtual press conference with county leaders and local health officials to discuss the challenges posed by state budget cuts and concerns related to the implementation of new “Yellow Zone” school testing requirements.
 
View a recording of today's event here or download here.
 
“There is no pandemic response in the state of New York without county government. There is no flattening the curve, no test sites, no testing infrastructure, lab coordination, no distribution of PPE without county governments. What we have learned over the last 8 months that it is only when we collaborate effectively that we can effectively confront this crisis,” said Marcus Molinaro, NYSCEA President and Dutchess County Executive. “County governments are stretched as thin as possible and we need the Governor and the State Legislature to recognize that and acknowledge that we can't control the spread of the virus without the resources to do it.”
 
“The emergence of new hotspots has brought new challenges for counties, including requirements to administer testing in Yellow Zone schools. While counties and our local health departments possess the skill and expertise to take on this new challenge, this appears to be another instance of local governments being asked to step up and implement the state's COVID response plan on the ground without being provided the resources needed to do the job,” said Daniel P. McCoy, President of County Executives of America and Albany County Executive. “New Yorkers are counting on us to get this right and not let another resurgence of the virus undo our progress, and the only way we can accomplish that is by working together in a collaborative way on behalf of the people we serve.”
 
“Local Health Departments (LHDs) are on the absolute front lines in the fight against COVID-19. However, after more than a decade of state funding cuts to public health, LHDs are running on leaner resources and far fewer staff. The impact of the state's cuts on LHD staffing has been profound. Since 2010 there are 33% fewer LHD employees due primarily to the state's actions. We are now seven months into the pandemic, desperately short staffed, and not properly resourced to meet the staffing demands associated with the state's directive to administer tests in schools. As we enter flu season, these challenges will only be exacerbated. We are doing everything we can at the local level, but it's not enough. We need more resources from the state to meet the state's directives,” said Kevin Watkins, M.D., NYSACHO President and Public Health Director for Cattaraugus County.
 
“Counties are managing the response while facing the potential for further losses to sales tax revenue if business are forced to close down again. As cases of COVID-19 rise again, and counties are once more called upon to lead the local response, it will be critical for us to have an open and constructive dialog with state leaders about how we can work together to ensure counties have the resources needed to effectively control the virus and provide essential services that are needed now more than ever,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario.
 
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Media Contact: Mark LaVigne | MLavigne@nysac.org | 518-465-1473 x206

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