MAYVILLE — During a COVID-19 update late Friday morning, Chautauqua County Health officials said there are no plans to change what information is released to the public regarding COVID-19 positive tests, but they will continue to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Public Health Director Christine Schuyler told WNYNewsNow that the release of the identity of businesses with positive COVID-19 tests are considered based on the health threat to the community with the right to patient privacy kept in mind.
“I say that because our priority is to protect patient confidentiality,” Schuyler said.”That is not under our purview to do that.”
“I think some people out there just want to know, you’re going to get information that is appropriate and legal for us to release that information.”
She said identities are not released for HIV, sexually transmitted diseases or other illnesses.
“If there’s no public risk related to a cluster, then there is no reason for the public to know that,” she explained.
Officials said they have tested 65 percent of the workforce at Fieldbrook Foods in Dunkirk, and expect more tests to be completed soon.
County Executive P. J. Wendel said Tuesday’s mass testing showed 24 positive test results, moving the total to about 6 percent of the company’s workforce, with more testing to come.
The mass testing was one of the largest and most successful in the state, outside of New York City, Wendel said.
Schuyler said the investigation at Fieldbrook Foods is continuing, but as of now there is no reason for the plant to close operations.
“There is no reason to close down the Fieldbrook Foods plant. We came to consensus on this decision,” she said, explaining that the company’s third shift is mainly for sanitation.
“It did not make any sense to close them down to clean when they clean every 24 hours,” she said. State officials were leaning toward recommending the plant be shut down, but were satisfied with mitigation efforts by the company and the county, officials said.
“Every person in this community must take personal responsibility. What you do in your off hours is up to you, but remember what you do spills over to the people in the county,” Schuyler said, adding people’s actions also impact health workers dealing with the virus.
Schuyler took time to thank and recognize local health care workers for going above and beyond and making ceaseless efforts to help in any way they can.
“It gets to be very emotional, there are some people out there who do not recognize health care workers,” she said. “I’m so grateful to all of the partners we have who work with us.”
“We are responsible for the health of all residents of Chautauqua County,” Wendel said. “It took time to get this coordinated, we wanted to make sure we did it right.”
Wendel said the county was not surprised by the cluster.
“We knew this was going to happen, this is something that my team has been preparing for since March 15.”
Schuyler said she was relieved that the positive test results in the cluster weren’t higher.
“I was relieved because I was afraid it was going to be higher,” she said. “We prepared as much as we could and it was all hands on deck. So far, we’re managing, I’m not going to tell you it’s easy.”