St. Lawrence County Public Health doc says 4 colleges going ‘above and beyond’ reopening recommendations
BY ANDY GARDNER
North Country This Week
One of the top local public health experts says the four local colleges are going “above and beyond” the minimum public health recommendations for bringing back students this fall.
Dr. Andrew Williams, St. Lawrence County Board of Health president, made the comment during a June 29 St. Lawrence County legislature Finance Committee meeting held over Zoom and streamed live on YouTube.He said the four colleges, SUNY Potsdam, SUNY Canton, Clarkson University and St. Lawrence University, are “coming up with the best, safest plan for them to reopen. I’m really pleased with their eagerness to comply with the Department of Health.”
The doctor noted that when the coronavirus first reached St. Lawrence County, the colleges “surprisingly” weren’t a big source of the disease spreading.
“We want to make sure that holds true for the fall,” Dr. Williams said.
Legislator Margaret Haggard, D-Potsdam, acknowledged there could be a risk with bringing back students from around the United States and “20 or 30 different countries.”
“Obviously, they’re going to have some sort of contingency plans,” Haggard said. “It could be a disaster but we need them back because they spend money in the county.”
Dr. Williams said the extra-cautious college reopening plans are being written with the backdrop of St. Lawrence County being more vulnerable to COVID-19 transmission than other New York state counties.
“We have particular vulnerabilities that are not shared across the state,” he said.
Those include a higher number of residents of advanced age, people living in multigenerational houses, and people with disabilities.
“It just sort of emphasizes how we’re more vulnerable as a community, so we have to redouble our efforts,” he said.
When Dr. Williams spoke, he also touched on the idea of herd immunity to the novel coronavirus.
“We’re nowhere near herd immunity in this county, or this state,” he said, adding that 70% of the people would either need to be vaccinated or exposed to the natural virus to reach that threshold. He said that isn’t likely to happen until a vaccine is developed.
With that in mind, the doctor said the most important measures for keeping the virus at bay are the public health recommendations that have been hammered on since March. That includes wearing a mask that covers the mouth and nose while in public, social distancing, thorough hand washing, and encouraging people “to be sort of aware of their own health.” He said people should voluntarily isolate if they become ill and contact a healthcare provider immediately.
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