Senior center shuts due to COVID-19 exposure

The Athens Senior Center closed Thursday due to COVID-19 exposure. Contributed photo

ATHENS — The Athens Senior Center closed Thursday following after exposure to COVID-19, county officials said.

Information about how many staff or volunteers were exposed, or if there were any positive tests, was not immediately available.

Operations at the site, where meals for senior citizens are prepared for take-out or delivery, will largely depend on how many employees and volunteers have to be quarantined, Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said.

“Worst-case scenario is we lose all the staff,” he said. “Then we have to figure out how to get meals out for two weeks to the areas that the center serves.”

The center has eight employees, Linger said.

Getting meal services up and running as soon as possible is a priority, he said.

“Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as pulling from Jewett or Acra because the food has to be delivered at certain temperatures,” he said. “Do we partner up with a school? Do we cook in a different facility? It depends on how things turn out and how many need to be moved around.”

The Athens Senior Center absorbed the meal requests from the Coxsackie Senior Center, which closed due to a staffing shortage, Linger said.

“Their cook that was there went out for surgery,” Linger said, adding that the site was already experiencing a staff shortage. “We don’t have the staff to maintain that site right now. Those meals are all being made in Athens.”

Demand for meal services across the board has increased during the pandemic because elderly residents are less inclined to go out and due to changes to the income requirement, Linger said.

“If somebody knows they have a family member getting those meals, now’s the time to give them a call and say, ‘I’ll bring you up a lunch,’” Linger said.

The county’s senior centers stopped offering in-person meals in March, Linger said.

“The hope was to reopen them by September,” Linger said. “Terry [Ward] was not comfortable in doing that. Given the rise in cases recently, that’s probably a good call.”

Terry McGee Ward is executive director of the Greene County Department of Human Services.

The county reported 28 active cases Wednesday.

To volunteer to deliver meals, contact the Human Services Department at 518-719-3555.

Check back for more on this developing story.

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