HUDSON — The New York State Association of Counties is emphasizing bipartisan unity in regards to COVID-19.

State and federal associations of counties joined virtually Monday to discuss the importance of working together during the pandemic.

“We come together as not Democrats or Republicans but as county officials, in a bipartisan matter, to say this is not political,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said. “The actions that are being taken by local governments are to save people’s lives. None of us enjoy these actions. Counties across the United States have unfortunately suffered. It is not one particular region that is suffering; all regions are suffering.”

Billions of dollars will be lost to counties across the country because of the impacts of COVID-19, Poloncarz said, and these costs are not going away soon. Poloncarz said 762 people in Erie County have died from COVID-19.

Poloncarz said New York initially had a majority of the number of COVID cases early during the pandemic, but COVID is getting more severe everywhere in the country.

“If as leaders we let our party affiliation get in the way of working together, there is no flattening the curve,” said NYSCEA President and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro. “There is no pandemic response and there will be no vaccine distribution without county governments. County governments across America have risen to the challenge of our lifetime, most importantly because residents trust and have faith in us.”

Molinaro said two weeks ago his county was monitoring 125 active COVID cases. The county has 609 active cases as of Monday.

“At this rate we will be back at the number we experienced earlier this year,” Molinaro said. “As we focus on the great advancements that labs, pharmacists, doctors and scientists across the globe have put forward with the potential for vaccinations, county governments will be on the front line of not only distributing vaccines but helping to convince residents to be vaccinated.”

Columbia County has had 922 positive COVID cases since March. The county announced last weekend that it is working on preparations for a vaccine. The Columbia County Department of Health said Friday it is looking for volunteers to assist the department with vaccinations.

“There will be community resources, doctors’ offices and pharmacies, for instance, that will be giving vaccinations, but we have to be ready to handle a significant portion of the county population and that means hiring people to help with that massive undertaking,” said Department of Health Director Jack Mabb in a statement.

There are 87 active cases in the county and 17 people hospitalized. There are currently 424 people in the county in mandatory quarantine.

Greene County has had 636 positive COVID cases since the beginning of the pandemic. There are 46 active cases in the county and three people are hospitalized because of COVID.

“This is how we respond to crises in America,” said Molinaro. “When there’s a fire we send the fire department; when that fire is bigger than any one house or any one neighborhood we bring in mutual aid and when it grows to something that consumes whole communities then governments like ours step in to provide assistance. This is how we respond to a public health crisis and when that crisis grows beyond the capacity of any county government we need states and the federal government to step in. I don’t expect Congress to send firemen to my neighborhood but I do expect them to provide us with the resources and support necessary to support the firemen that are on the street every day.”

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