briefing

Tioga County’s Legislative Chairwoman, Martha Sauerbrey, delivers her last COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday.

On April 29, Legislative Chairwoman Martha Sauerbrey began hosting weekly press briefings intended to carry important news out into the community. Each brief, held each Wednesday at the Legislative Auditorium in Owego, welcomed county representatives to answer questions and discuss matters surrounding COVID-19 in Tioga County.

During Wednesday’s brief, and just days prior to the start of Phase 1 openings in Owego, Legislator Sauerbrey told the media in attendance that it would be her last brief.

This news came with the announcement of 122 cases, as of the brief, and an increase in recoveries.

Of those recoveries, she noted, some of them are happening at Elderwood.

“Some of the best things I’ve seen are the recoveries,” Legislator Sauerbrey said, adding, “It’s a celebration.”

And as the Chair of the County’s Legislature, Sauerbrey wanted to emphasize that the beginning of Phase 1 does not signal the loosening up of social distancing and other restrictions.

The Health Department’s spokesperson, Kylie Holachak, addressed the media about the county’s case numbers, noting that a lot of the cases they are seeing are resulting from gatherings and within households.

She also added that the department now has 15 people that are assigned as contact tracers — workers that will contact people that have been in contact with a person that tested positive for coronavirus.

She gave a shout out to the public, stating that if they want to help, they can use the Notes App to track where they go, they can take photos of places; but most importantly, she added, practice social distancing guidelines, wear a face covering or mask, wash your hands, and avoid social gatherings.

With things moving forward, the county’s brief also welcomed Shawn Yetter, commissioner of Tioga County’s Department of Social Services.

According to Yetter, the department has a kiosk it operates from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and a waiting area if things can’t be settled by phone at (607) 687-3800.

“Many things can be done without coming in,” said Yetter.

He did note, however, that 20 Court St. is now open for child support and continues to conduct functions of oversight for the elderly by calling (607) 687-8550.

With school closures, Yetter noted that if someone is concerned about a child(ren), they should call 1-800-342-3720. He also noted that PINS is still available for anyone dealing with teens. Yetter also encouraged those that can to consider becoming a foster parent. Call Angela at 687-8346 for more information.

Finally, Yetter talked about a grim subject on unemployment claims, which totaled 2,800 for Tioga County at the time of the brief. He reminded residents to contact Tioga County’s career center at (607) 687-8483.

Finally, Tioga County’s Economic Development Director, LeeAnn Tinney, talked about the different phases of opening, but cautioned that things tend to change every day.

For now, phase one opened last Friday and included construction, agriculture, and more. Albany later added auto maintenance and service, pet grooming and others, to include retail for drive-thru or pick up.

Phase 2, which opens May 29, includes the retail shops, administrative support services, and much needed hair salons and barber shops. Where massage therapists fell on that list was still to be determined.

Phase 3, which could begin on June 12, if all goes well, includes restaurants while Phase 4, scheduled for June 26, looks at plans for schools and gatherings.

“Essential employees have to have a plan,” said Tinney.

The best place to go for the information is Tioga County’s website, www.tiogacountyny.com/programs-agencies/covid19/, Tinney added, where businesses will find information on how to move forward, links to sites with further information, and online applications for business reopening and the requirements explained.

Visit https://forward.ny.gov for the comprehensive plan coming out of Albany.