County OKs hiring public health nurses

Farwell

With local coronavirus cases rising dramatically this month, Otsego County’s Board of Representatives unanimously approved two late resolutions Monday, Dec. 14, to allow the county’s Department of Health to hire three temporary nurses to help with contract tracing. 

Almost 50 people tested positive for the virus over the weekend in Otsego County, which has reported double digit positive testing numbers daily for weeks, an upward swing in the pandemic mirrored in the region and nationally. Otsego County officials said there were 11 more positive cases Monday, and also reported a recent death of a county resident from the virus recently. 

Rep. Michele Farwell, D-Butternuts, Morris, Pittsfield, brought the resolution from the floor, Monday, meaning she needed two-thirds of the weighted vote to pass. 

The positions are for over base salary and can last as needed for as long as six months, according to the resolutions. The board passed the resolution in two forms, one allowing a posting for community health nurses and another allowing a posting for LPNs. 

The twin resolutions will allow Health Director Heidi Bond flexibility in hiring based on evolving needs, but are for only three total temporary positions.

The salary for the jobs will be reimbursable under the COVID relief grant, Farwell said.

“I think having the flexibility to get the LPNs was a good idea,” Farwell said. 

Farwell said she coordinated the bills at the last minute with Bond and Health and Education Committee Chair Andrew Stammel, D-town of Oneonta, because she had been hearing concerns about the DOH not being able to keep up with contact tracing.

“I just thought there would probably be enough support to bring it from the floor and because of the nature of this virus, every day counts,” Farwell said, “so that’s why it’s here today.”

Although, resolutions from the floor are not typical and were often frowned upon as breaking chain of command in non-COVID times, Farwell’s fellow representatives thanked her for making sure the matter got brought up Monday.  

“I think we all agree this is necessary, given the nature of the cases we’ve been having lately,” said Board Chair Dave Bliss, R-Cherry Valley, Middlefield, Roseboom. “I’m glad to see it happen.”

Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at gklein@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7218.

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