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Lawmakers take to the phones to answer COVID-19 questions

DUTCHESS COUNTY — Keeping on top of all updates related to the coronavirus pandemic and county plans to combat the outbreak, Dutchess County residents tuned into the live Telephone Town Hall hosted by Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro on Wednesday, March 18.

In lieu of his State of the County Town Hall Forum series  — which was canceled as a result of the pandemic — Molinaro organized the live county-wide phone call to provide county residents with an overview of the current COVID-19 situation in Dutchess County and answer questions.

Beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday evening, residents tuning in were encouraged to dial “0” on their phones to ask a question. The call was also streamed live on the Dutchess County Government’s Facebook page, and its comment section burst to life with questions from the public that covered an extensive range of topics, such as the local mental health services and supports available to help people cope with anxiety during the pandemic; what the county is doing to help small businesses at this time; the timeline for making COVID-19 testing available in Dutchess County; and how long until the county goes under lock-down.

Joined by Commissioner Anil Vaidian from the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health and Commissioner of Emergency Response Dana Smith from the Dutchess County Department of Emergency Response, Molinaro said the county is working hand-in-hand with town supervisors, mayors, colleges and universities, public schools, public health care organizations and institutions across the county to identify positive cases and take care of those who are ill.

As of Wednesday evening, Molinaro reported nearly 30 positive COVID-19 cases, stressing that the number doesn’t necessarily reflect the total number of people living with COVID-19. Instead, he said it is important to understand how the county has evolved from “monitoring individual cases to understanding that, in one way or another, everyone has either contracted COVID-19 or come into contact with someone who may have COVID-19.

“It’s important to think that way,” Molinaro said, “because if we function as a community as if we were carrying the virus ourselves, we’ll make the choices in our lives that will help us drive down the number of transmissions.”

Just a few minutes past 6 p.m., Molinaro reported that there were 800 people following the Town Hall call on Facebook and more than 1,000 people listening in.

Like the county executive, Congressman Antonio Delgado (D-NY 19) held a Tele-Town Hall on Friday, March 20, to solicit feedback on the challenges local communities are facing during the pandemic and to gain a better idea of how to advocate for Dutchess County residents. Beginning at 6:30 p.m., callers were limited to one question each, and the Tele-Town Hall was streamed live on the Congressman Antonio Delgado Facebook page.

Delgado was joined by a class of county and state officials who assisted him with answering the public’s questions.

In addition to commending the healthcare workers and everyone on the frontline of the pandemic, Delgado said he wanted to recognize “the fact we are living in unprecedented times, and every single person’s life and routine has been upended by the coronavirus.

“I want you to know that I hear you,” Delgado said, “and your stories are informing my work every day to advocate on behalf of our businesses, our farmers, our students, everyone.”

Callers shared concerns about the pandemic’s influence on their communities; whether local businesses will be able to recover once the pandemic concludes; and how the government will bring them closer to finding a solution.

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