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Guest Article: Annika Wickham

Annika Wickham, a graduate of Watkins Glen High School, is a SUNY Oswego student. She has been home recently thanks to the pandemic but taking a news writing and reporting class "where we learn and practice writing different types of news articles. My professor gives the option to submit full-length articles we write to local newspapers." Here is one, dealing with essential workers in the healthcare field:

By Annika Wickham

SCHUYLER COUNTY, June 1, 2020 -- Times are changing for Schuyler County essential workers as the number of Coronavirus patients drops but quarantine and the threat of a spike in cases continues.

On March 20, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that all nonessential workers in New York State must stay home in an effort to stop the spread of Coronavirus.

Signing an Executive Order, Cuomo declared that all healthcare workers, medical supply manufacturers, and others in the medical field would continue to work during periods of quarantine and social distancing.

In areas with relatively small populations but large numbers of essential workers, like Schuyler County, the governor’s order has had a major impact.

According to DataUSA, a website that puts public government data about employment, demographics, and more into one place, the largest employment industries in Schuyler County are healthcare and social assistance.

With Schuyler Hospital located centrally in the county, the number of essential employees still going to work is higher here than in many places around the state. Schuyler Hospital is also considered a Critical Access Hospital due to its rural location distant from another hospital.

The hospital employs over 400 workers between Primary Care, the Seneca View Skilled Nursing Facility, and the main campus.

The number of confirmed Coronavirus cases within Schuyler County had by June 1 totaled just 14, with 13 recovered. Even with the small number of cases, Schuyler Hospital has still been preparing for a potential rise in patients.

Kristin Hall, a Clinical Operations Manager for Schuyler Primary Care and Specialty Clinics, said her workday changed completely when Coronavirus testing and regulations began.

“We were focused on how to screen patients appropriately and how to keep patients and staff safe,” she said. “I was working more when the pandemic started; now work has slowed some.”

All medical facilities within New York are preparing for the rise in positive cases of Coronavirus, but in a geographic area where people are not getting infected, the workload of essential healthcare workers has been diminishing -- and not just because of the low number of infections.

“Work in clinics has fallen off as many appointments have been cancelled,” said Mendy Thorsland, a resident nurse at Primary Care and Specialty Clinic in Schuyler County -- routine appointments of people cancelling them for fear of catching Coronavirus in hospitals or doctors’ offices.

“We have furloughed staff,” Hall said. “People who are still running the clinic are picking up more tasks.”

That reduction is not universal, though.

“We have been doing a lot of prep work for the potential Corona patients,” said certified nurse assistant Nicole Bryan, who works through a nurse connection staffing agency. “My workload hasn’t changed.”

While hospitals and other medical facilities around the area have been working with less staff than normal, nursing and assisted-living homes are desperate for more help. Thorsland, who works when needed at a nursing home, said she is filling in there more since the state shutdown.

“Work in nursing homes is unchanged except for more demand [for workers],” she said. “Staff are sent home with any signs of illness.”

With more than 25% of Schuyler County’s population over the age of 60, the demand for more assisted-living staff is expected to rise as the threat of Coronavirus continues.

Photo: Annika Wickham



© The Odessa File 2020
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869