Image: Star Gazette

Throughout the past few weeks numerous questions have been asked on several social media platforms and through email about Chemung County’s response to COVID-19 and the specific acts that are being undertaken by our local government.

Today County Executive Chris Moss held a press conference where he answered many of them.

I also put several questions in writing to County Executive Moss based on what I have read on social media and in email correspondence from the public, and he took the time to provide me with thorough written answers to share with the community.

Please describe the specific process Chemung County uses for contract tracing.

The contact tracing typically occurs as follows:

A positive case comes in to CCHD via the electronic disease reporting system.

That same day, a public health nurse calls the positive case to:

  • Inform the person of the positive result;
  • Learn the date of the first symptom onset as COVID may begin spreading up to two days prior to when symptoms appear;
  • Ask who their “close contacts” were from two days prior to the symptom onset through the current time. A “close contact” is defined as someone they live with or someone they have been within 6 ft of for greater than  15 minutes;
  • Obtain contact information for the close contacts;
  • Provide instructions for quarantine requirements to the positive case and their family with whom they reside; and
  • Deliver legal quarantine orders to the positive person. 

Nurses then call close contacts to explain they have been exposed to COVID-19.  

Contacts of the “close contacts” are considered very low-risk and therefore not investigated.

Positive individuals and their “close contacts” are monitored twice daily through in-person visits, video chats and/or phone calls.   

Steuben County provides detailed information about where people who test positive for COVID-19 have been throughout the past 7-10 days. Is Chemung County willing to provide similar information? If not, why not?

Each county has its own manner of conducting investigations. When and if it is necessary to provide detailed information on a positive individual’s whereabouts, that information will be released.

I am confident in the manner in which these investigations are being successfully conducted and see no need to change our protocols because of how an adjacent county handles its cases. Each case has its own set of circumstances, and the trace investigation reveals whether others were possibly exposed to the positive case based on a variety of factors. 

The main goal of the tracing effort is to halt any additional spread of the virus in order to keep the public safe.   

Chemung County created a page on its website where anonymous tips about social distancing violations are posted in order to let members of our community know which locations may not be complying with the rules.

At the same time, at least two large social gatherings have resulted in multiple new COVID-19 infections, yet the identity of those locations has not been disclosed. Can you please explain why that information has not been provided?

The page on the county’s website contains daily information received from the “New York State Pause” initiative.

There was no need to identify the addresses in either of the cases you’ve referred to because the tracing investigation didn’t require it. We are not publicizing residential addresses unless absolutely necessary to protect public health. Residential addresses are not posted on the county’s PAUSE portal either.

What types of enforcement methods can Chemung County use against businesses and/or individuals who violate social distancing rules? 

Our goal is to educate the public, whether it is the business or private sector. Enforcement will only be utilized as a last ditch effort when violations pertaining to social distancing, facial covering, quarantine violations, etc. pose a danger of the spread of the virus.

With multiple Executive Orders signed by the Governor on a regular basis, basically “changing the rules”, it’s understandable that there will be confusion among the business community and private sector on what constitutes a violation.      

Please describe Chemung County’s policy for utilizing those enforcement methods.

The County Executive, County Sheriff and County Attorney review complaints on a daily basis and make determinations on what, if any, enforcement actions will be taken. It’s important to remember that the majority of these complaints are civil in nature, not criminal.


Thank you so much to County Executive Moss, Health Director Pete Buzzetti and the countless other people in Chemung County who have been working so hard for many months to keep our community as safe as possible. It is most appreciated.

-Christina Sonsire