Letter: Odell Responds

Before the first coronavirus case even appeared in Putnam County, residents and community leaders embraced the opportunity to set politics aside and work together for the common good, putting health and safety first. That’s the kind of leadership people are looking for and what we at Putnam County government continue to represent.

So, I was disappointed and, frankly, stunned to read Philipstown Town Supervisor Richard Shea’s letter saying that the county government under my leadership has not taken appropriate action to protect Putnam residents during this awful COVID-19 pandemic.

He is simply wrong. As county executive, I, and the employees who are running the county government with just 50 percent staffing, are laser-focused on protecting our residents, workers and communities from the devastation this global pandemic has caused elsewhere.

I have repeatedly demanded state Health Department officials set up a test site in Putnam so that we could get accurate data quickly and respond appropriately.

Although there are many who would like to take credit for the drive-thru testing the county Health Department ran recently, all of the credit should go to our incredibly dedicated and hard-working Health Department staff. This limited testing is not enough, as we have let the state know, and we intend to keep pressing the state for more.

Just last week, I requested the Legislature transfer more than $220,000 in funds to cover the cost of essential personal protective equipment that our Bureau of Emergency Services and Purchasing Department were savvy enough to locate in this time of scarcity. Those supplies will not only go to county first-responders and health care workers, but to first-responder groups from municipalities as well.

Information is vital and so, after every day’s conference call with the Health Department, Putnam Hospital President Peter Kelly, relevant county department heads and legislative leaders, we post a dashboard showing our latest COVID-19 data.

In addition to that daily call, I have daily briefings with the governor, the White House, the New York State Association of Counties and Dr. Michael Nesheiwat, Putnam’s health commissioner. All of these calls and actions are in service of protecting the 99,000 residents of Putnam County. At the same time, the county leadership is wrestling with a state budget handed down to us with gaping holes to fill.

Putnam County has teamed up with the United Way of Westchester and Putnam and the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley to provide food to families and seniors who face a new economic uncertainty.

The COVID-19 public health crisis has had an impact on our Main Street economy, our schools and our families. This administration is working hard to aid those businesses, employers, workers and families.

The road to recovery is uncharted, but Putnam County government will be there to assist every step of the way. It would help if we all worked together.

MaryEllen Odell, Carmel
Odell is the Putnam County executive.

2 thoughts on “Letter: Odell Responds

  1. Putnam County Executive Mary Ellen Odell’s response leaves me even more concerned for our county.

    Cutting staff by 50 percent is old news at this point and can’t be used to fill space in an editorial. The daily briefings with the county Health Department, which by the way, Odell doesn’t attend, are only a litany of complaints and a rundown of who is sick and who has died. I searched and got more information in a 10-minute phone call with Nuvance Health than I did on three weeks of attending the morning calls. The Commissioner of Health, Dr. Michael Nesheiwat, didn’t even know that there was a testing site at Dutchess Stadium. The commissioner should be fired tomorrow.

    As for the county’s delayed funding of the effort, the results speak for themselves: weeks of unprotected workers and families wondering what to do about food and medicine. There is still no county plan for long-term assistance to families in need. To rely on the United Way is fine, but there has been only one grocery pickup to date. Last I checked families like to eat each day. And for protecting our most vulnerable, seniors and the health compromised, nothing. It has been left to the towns to come up with plans and disseminate the information and supplies. To date, Philipstown has not received a single item from Putnam County. This is not to say that our great Legislator Nancy Montgomery has let this hamper her efforts. Nancy has delivered hundreds of masks, actionable information, and has been on the front line since the start of the outbreak.

    With no help from the county, the Town of Philipstown has been left to fill the void. We have given out $75,000 in food and medical supplies along with mask-making material. We have also sent food assistance funding to the Town of Carmel, Beacon and Newburgh. All this us possible through a generous private donation. We will continue to seek private and public funds. More importantly, we will continue to take care of our residents.

    As has been the case since the formation of the county government, Philipstown has been ignored again. But this time it is not just Philipstown, it’s the entire county. The lack of leadership at the top level of county government has caused real suffering. I fear for not only the residents of our county but the county employees who are going to work each day without protective equipment. This is not about politics. It’s about facts. From all that I have seen and heard on the county calls the county executive’s absence and lack of leadership has and will continue to cause more pain for all the residents of Putnam County.

    Shea is the Philipstown supervisor.

  2. Thank you, Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea, for pointing out the obvious lack of concern about COVID-19 by Putnam County officials. As a county employee, I was flabbergasted when we were told that if our building were contaminated, we need not worry. We would be supplied with heated tents so that we could work outside.

    In the Department of Social Services, we wanted protocols set up for the receptionists to ask three basic questions of visitors about how they felt. The commissioner decided that it would be best for a caseworker to ask them. Meanwhile, any applicants for services saw four people before the caseworker, me included. There were unproductive meetings by management every day. They wisely just started following the guidelines that other counties already had in place. Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro recently posted a thank-you message to the other county executives. The one omission? MaryEllen Odell.

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