While the “One Seneca” initiative has been up-and-running for a few years in Seneca County, it was really tested when the Coronavirus Pandemic began. Right now, heading into the Christmas-New Years window the message is “be smart”.

Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Shipley calls it the county’s “control room” equivalent. Gov. Andrew Cuomo created regional control rooms to allow for better decision making throughout the pandemic. For the same reasons, officials thought it would be appropriate to leverage “One Seneca” as the county’s control room. It brought together elected leaders, public health officials, the business community, school leaders, and Chamber of Commerce to have an ongoing, complete conversation about the pandemic.

That team has met weekly throughout the pandemic, going over an array of different topics to ensure that Seneca is well-positioned throughout. “This initiative has really come a long way,” Shipley said over the weekend. “We’re stronger together. And we’re committed to doing what’s in the best interest of the County.”

It is something that has turbocharged response efforts to COVID-19. For example, Vickie Swinehart said  because of work in public health, and collaboration with other entities like Finger Lakes Community Health, free, weekly testing will begin this week.

“It’s not a public health pandemic. It’s a human pandemic - all the way around,” Swinehart said. “It affects every entity, business, family, and lifestyle, so it’s not something that can be pigeon-holed into public health.”

She called it a community responsibility to keep progressing forward in the fight against COVID-19. She noted earlier in the week that testing for asymptomatic people was a major challenge. The new testing system will allow for that with weekly opportunities. 

Finger Lakes Community Health will offer free rapid drive-thru testing to anyone regardless of county of residence, on Thursday mornings from 9 to 10 a.m. for asymptomatic individuals at their office at 7150 Main Street, Ovid.

Additional testing will be offered for asymptomatic individuals every Monday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Seneca County Office Building, 1 DiPronio Drive, Waterloo.

“We’re already booking into the following week,” Swinehart said, referring to the speed at which people are signing up for asymptomatic testing. Those who have symptoms will not be able to take advantage of this testing. “Hopefully this relieves the burden on urgent care centers and emergency rooms in the area,” she added. “Hopefully this will alleviate that burden.”

As for messaging into Christmas, Swinehart said it comes down to being smart and thoughtful. “We have seen a surge in our numbers from Thanksgiving, so be very, very thoughtful about who you have contact with at Christmas. It’s going to be a different Christmas celebration. So, just be mindful that there are a lot of people who don’t have symptoms and are still positive.”

Editor’s Note: Check out next week’s story, which will look at the way schools and the business community have become involved with the One Seneca initiative.

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