Montgomery County has shut down its department of social services office in the Riverfront Center in Amsterdam pending COVID-19 test results for a DSS staff member who had traveled to a New York state designated hot spot and then worked on Tuesday without disclosing the traveling.
New York state has placed 29 states and the U.S. territory of Guam on its travel advisory, based on the seven day rolling average for the state or territory of positive tests in excess of 10 percent or the number of positive cases exceeding 10 per 100,000 residents.
People who enter New York state from the list of places on the travel advisory are required to quarantine for 14 days.
Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort said he was told about the county employee who violated the NYS travel advisory at the end of the work day on Tuesday.
“I was notified by management, and there’s two levels of responsibility here: policy dictates that the employee share with their supervisor or manager if they did travel to a hotspot, and also it’s required that management monitor their staff,” Ossenfort said. “Those are the protocols that are in place to limit the spread upon return. This is a situation where the information was not made available at the time it should have.”
Ossenfort said the approximately 40 staff members of the Amsterdam DSS office have been placed on paid leave. He said the results of testing on the staff member who violated the travel advisory will determine when the office can reopen. He said there is no plan to close the DSS office in Fonda.
“This situation is not related to a positive coronavirus case, because that has not yet been determined,” he said. “The protocols dictate we shut down. We’re doing a deep clean. We look at potential exposures and do the testing.”
Montgomery County Public Health Director Sara Boerenko said the county will only initiate a tracing of all of the people the DSS staff member had contact with if the person tests positive. She said the sign-in sheet at the Amsterdam DSS office will make the tracking of the person’s contacts easier, which is why all businesses should have a sign-in sheet.
Ossenfort said if a wider tracing of the staff member’s contacts are necessary it could include contacting DSS clients, vendors or other county employees the person may have come into contact with.
More information about this story will be in Thursday’s Daily Gazette and Amsterdam Recorder.