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.