Bracing for the Worst
A sign leading into the Business Expansion Center in Oswego details precautionary measures people are being advised to take in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bracing for the Worst

Coronavirus threat changing lifestyles of many Oswego County residents

By Lou Sorendo

Although there are no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Oswego County, residents are hunkering down in anticipation of a heightened presence of the dangerous health threat.

Oswego County has directed county government employees whose regular responsibilities are not essential to the goal of protecting the public and employees from the spread of COVID-19 to work from home through April 15, in response to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order.

Legislature chairman James Weatherup also encouraged the public to do business with Oswego County by phone or online whenever possible.

“Oswego County is continuing to be proactive in addressing the threat that COVID-19 poses to the health and welfare of its citizens,” he said.

The county is working with its information technology department to develop work-from-home capabilities for those who do not have it. Non-essential employees already at work were sent home to work.

Several county departments have announced changes in services to the public:

Oswego County Clerk’s office: The following protocols effective Thursday:

— In-person services will be limited to emergency court document filings and notary services only. Call 315-349-8613 to schedule an appointment.

The public is encouraged to continue to record and file documents via electronic means or by sending documents through the U.S. Postal Service. Many transactions can be accomplished through e-recording, e-filing, or the postal service. Contact the clerk’s office for more information.

Many of the records maintained by the clerk’s office can be searched online at SearchIQS.com. Land records, judgments, liens, business certificates, and some court records are available at no charge. There is a minimal fee for printing copies or viewing certain documents.

Pistol permit applications can be purchased in two ways:

— Call 315-349-8620 with a credit card payment.
— Mail a letter requesting a pistol permit application, with a $20 check made out to “Oswego County Clerk,” to Oswego County Clerk, Pistol Permits, 46 E. Bridge St., Oswego NY 13126.

Passport and EZ-Pass transactions are suspended until further notice.

• Oswego County One Stop Career Center in Fulton, and the Career Center at the Department of Social Services, Mexico: The Oswego County Department of Social Services has closed its Oswego County One Stop Career Centers in Fulton, and the Career Center at the Department of Social Services, Mexico. The centers will be closed until at least April 15.

Stacy Alvord, commissioner of social services, said the DSS will continue to see walk-ins and people with emergency needs that require a face-to-face meeting.

“All program services are available by phone. However, we anticipate that our phone response time may be lengthy, as we are being inundated with calls,” said Alvord. “We are encouraging people to reach out through e-mail or phone.”

Email contacts are as follows:

— Home Energy Assistance Program:  HEAP@oswegocounty.com

— Medicaid: medicaid@oswegocounty.com

Temporary assistance: temporaryassistance@oswegocounty.com

— Supplemental Nutrition (food stamps): SNAP@oswegocounty.com

— Child Care Subsidy: childcare@oswegocounty.com

— Child support/enforcement: childsupport@oswegocounty.com

— Adult and Family Services: Adult_Family@oswegocounty.com

People should continue to report suspected child abuse or neglect. However, if they believe that a child is in immediate danger, they should call 911 or their local police department:

— To report child abuse or neglect, call 800-342-3720
— Mandated reporter number to report child abuse or neglect: 800-635-1522
— Child Protective Unit: 315-963-5347

• Veterans Service Agency, Fulton: The Oswego County Veterans Service Agency is exercising preventive measures and will have intermittent office hours. Walk-in appointments on Tuesdays are suspended until further notice.

Appointments are being be made on a case-by-case basis.

Appointments will be held remotely via phone for established clients. New appointments can be made via the county website at oswegocounty.com/veterans_services.

To reach the Veterans Service Agency, call 315-591- 9100. After hours or if the office is closed, call 315-529-0454 or email veterans@oswegocounty.com.

• Oswego County Department of Motor Vehicles: Offices in Oswego and Pulaski are open to Oswego County residents by appointment only.

The Fulton DMV office will remain closed to the public until further notice. Fulton DMV staff is being repurposed to help maintain core functionality.

Appointments can be made by calling 315-349-8612 and will be scheduled every half-hour at either the Oswego or Pulaski DMV. Priority will be given to Oswego County residents.

All three offices are employing social distancing practices, with each office’s floor lined with tape approximately six feet apart. Those efforts, along with increased daily sanitization efforts, will continue.

Automotive dealers may drop off dealer paperwork at either the Oswego or Pulaski DMV location. No paperwork can be dropped off in Fulton.

• Oswego County Health Department immunization clinics: The health department will be closing all clinics effective the week of March 23 until further notice in response to the current outbreak of coronavirus.

• Oswego County Health Department March 25 rabies clinic: Postponed.

Weatherup has declared a state of emergency as a precautionary measure to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19 in Oswego County. Several departments of county government are working with community partners to prepare for the likelihood that coronavirus will spread to Oswego County.

The COVID-19 situation is rapidly evolving and n Weatherup said it’s important for people to use credible sources of information.

“It’s important to go to trusted sources, such as the public health department, New York State Department of Health, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for information,” he said.

For information about COVID-19, the public may call the Oswego County Health Department COVID-19 hotline at 315-349-3330 or the NYS COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-364-3065.

Cuomo is urging all New Yorkers to stay at home as much as possible and practicing “social distancing” to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

This includes:

— Keeping six feet from other people in public spaces
— Avoiding large gatherings or events
— Avoiding unnecessary appointments
— Canceling unnecessary travel plans

Health officials advise people to take these simple steps to prevent the spread of many respiratory illnesses:

— Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating.

— Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

— Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

— Get a flu shot.

— Stay home if you are sick.

— Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash.

— Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

— Call your health care provider from home if you are experiencing symptoms such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath.

— Do not go to urgent care or an emergency department unless you are experiencing life-threatening conditions.

Attention business owners

The Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York is committed to helping business owners manage the situation of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, currently disrupting supply chains, customers, and the lives of employees.

It’s important to remain calm, stay informed and take proactive measures in keeping the health and safety of everyone a top priority.

BBB recommends the following tips for businesses in handling customer, employee and business relations in light of coronavirus concerns:

Customer relations

— Connect with your customers. Communicate how your business is adjusting by promoting health safety while continuing to serve their needs. Reassure them by making it a priority to let them know you and your employees are following a strict program of recommended health protocols.

— Demonstrate commitment. Use simple tactics such as using hand sanitizer in front of your customers. Explain that you are taking this precaution to protect their health.

— Use technology. Tools such as FaceTime, Zoom, and Google Hangouts are ways to reduce the need of “in person” meetings with customers or vendors, as well as reduce the exposure and spread of the virus.

Employee relations

— Set the example. Wash your hands. Sanitize high contact areas. Cover your cough or sneeze. Stay home if you have respiratory symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath or a temperature above 100.4 degrees.

— Minimize risk. Avoid shaking hands. Perhaps consider another type of friendly greeting and explain that shaking hands helps control the spread of the virus.

— Set office expectations. Review human resource policies and communicate office expectations so everyone understands what they are to do or not do when working with co-workers.

— Educate employees. Beware of phishing emails, robocalls or text messages related to the coronavirus. Encourage them to report suspicious activities to BBB.org/scamtracker

Business relations

— Maintain a positive reputation. Refrain from doing anything that looks like your business is taking advantage of the crisis. Keep prices, services and business as usual with a few provisions to prevent the virus from spreading.

— Promote honesty. This is the time to act as a calming and reassuring partner to your customers, vendors and employees — not fuel unfounded fears. Continue advertising your company’s services and add a reference that you’re following public health protocols to stem the spread of the virus.

— Be realistic. Be honest with customers regarding timelines and product availability. Stay in contact with vendors. Set realistic expectations if your delivery or service is impacted by illness or precautions. Many customers will understand and respect the actions your business is taking, and that you’re taking the situation seriously.

— Communicate effectively. Communicate immediately with your customers if you’re unable to fulfill commitments rather than upsetting or disappointing them.

— Stay informed. Demonstrate purpose and support for your community. Consider making hand sanitizers and tissues available to customers. Stay up to date on the latest of the spread and additional tips of containment by following reliable sources of information: Centers for Disease Control, U.S. State Department Travel Advisories and World Health Organization.