Flu watch intensifies in county

HUDSON—As the World Health Organization was preparing to raise the threat level a notch higher to Level 5, county health officials were stepping up their efforts to identify any suspected cases of the new swine flu virus and to prevent transmission of the illness if and when it appears here. There were reports of suspected cases midweek in the Capital District, including in Albany and Schenectady.

   Columbia County has now set up a local hotline for inquiries about the H1N1 swine flu virus. The number is (518) 828-1212.  Arthur Baer, Chairman of the county Board of Supervisors announced the phone number Thursday, saying it had been activated for county residents as a point of contact for all questions about the H1N1 swine flu only.

   Mr. Baer and Nancy Winch, director of the county Department of Health, said in the press release announcing the hotline that there were no confirmed cases of swine flu in Columbia County as of Thursday afternoon, April 30.

   But two cases of influenza type A in children were reported at Columbia Memorial Hospital earlier this week according to the hospital’s infectious diseases consultant, Dr. Amanthakrishnan Ramani. Neither was swine flu. The determination is made by a judgment call and points out the complexities of the problem presented by the fast-evolving epidemic.

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Chatham set to unveil village budget

CHATHAM—The Village Board will hold a public hearing on the tentative budget this Thursday, April 30, at  6:30 p.m. at the Tracy Memorial.  All board members received copies of the annual budget proposal at the Water and Sewer meeting April 22, although the spending plan has not yet been released to the public.

    The board also passed a motion that acknowledged the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of Charter Communications. The company, which supplies cable TV service to the village and other parts of the county, filed for protection from creditors late in March because it was unable to meet its multi-billion-dollar debt obligations. Board Clerk Carol Simmons said that the board’s motion was a formality, and Mayor Paul Boehme assured board member what cable users “are not going to lose their service.”

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County steps up monitoring of flu cases

HUDSON—The Columbia County Department of Health said Monday that, in response to instructions from the state Department of Health, it has increased surveillance for possible cases of the new swine flu influenza A (H1N1). This is in addition to tracking cases of seasonal flu already reported in the county.

     County Public Health Director Nancy Winch said in a release that her department is using a plan already in place, which includes “appropriate protocols, education and awareness about the swine flu” that are used by county health providers, schools, daycare facilities, first responders, county department heads , community services and agencies.

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Murphy wins House race in 20th

GLENS FALLS—Scott Murphy will be the next representative from the 20th Congressional District, which includes all of Columbia County. The outcome of the March 31 special election remained in dispute until Friday afternoon, April 24, when Republican James Tedisco conceded the race.

     Mr. Murphy, a Democrat and Glens Falls businessman, fills the seat left vacant when Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed to the Senate early this year by Governor David Patterson. In a televised news conference from his home, Mr. Murphy said he would go to Washington next week to be sworn in to his new post, the first elective office he has held. He said he had received a call from President Obama earlier, who congratulated him on his victory.

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Challenges to second-home voters prolong House race count


HUDSON—Columbia County’s two election commissioners are scheduled to go to the state Board of Elections in Albany Thursday, April 23, to join their counterparts from other counties in the 20th Congressional District to decide whether to count some of the contested ballots in the unresolved race to fill the House seat. But that won’t end the legal and procedural wrangling that has left the post vacant since a March 31 special election.

   The latest count in the election to fill the seat vacated by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand had Democrat Scott Murphy leading Republican Jim Tedisco by a 401 votes out of more than 154,000 ballots cast. But many absentee ballots remain to be counted, and there are challenges raised by representatives of both parties that must still be resolved. The legal challenges are being heard by Judge James Brand of the state Supreme Court in Poughkeepsie, and he has ordered county election commissioners from the 10-county district to bring contested materials, including absentee ballots and ballot applications, to the Board of Elections in Albany Thursday.

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