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Jamestown Avoiding Bulk Of COVID Cases

The coronavirus has been hitting the country’s largest metropolitan cities the hardest the last few months.

So one would expect then that the most populated city in Chautauqua County, that being Jamestown with about 29,000 residents, to have more cases of COVID-19 than other, more rural spots. However, that hasn’t been the case, with few if any reported in the Jamestown area or its neighboring municipalities.

According to the county Health Department’s COVID-19 map, of the 72 confirmed cases reported since Saturday, 46 have been in the north county, four in the eastern part, 11 in the western part and 11 in the south county. The map is broken down into four “battalions” and include multiple towns and villages in each.

It’s not clear just how many of the 11 cases in the south end of the county involve Jamestown residents; county health officials said they are not releasing such data, instead sticking to its battalions as a means of displaying case statistics.

However, state Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, told reporters earlier this month that not one resident had tested positive for COVID-19.

The lack of confirmed cases is a surprise to some, including Mayor Eddie Sundquist, who cited social distancing and cooperation with the schools as one possible reason why.

“The fact that we have low to no cases mean that our residents took to social distancing early on,” Sundquist said last week. “We worked together with the schools to make sure they were closed. We have a great superintendent and school board that worked together to put these policies in place early on.”

County health officials too have been pondering the relationship between population density in Jamestown and its lack of positive test results. The topic was raised last week during a meeting of the county Board of Health.

“I’m intrigued about the number of cases in the north county, and based simply on density, I would have expected Jamestown to have more,” said Andrew O’Brien, board member. “Any ideas as to why the Jamestown area has less than you’d expect?”

Christine Schuyler, county public health director, said it may have more to do with neighboring regions and how prevalent COVID-19 is in each location.

“I think the only thing that I really could connect things to is if you look at the northern counties of Pennsylvania, including even over into Erie (Pa.), there’s been a low prevalence throughout that whole area and across the Southern Tier,” she said.

The bulk of COVID-19 cases in the county have been concentrated in the north county, which includes the Dunkirk/Fredonia area.

“Where there’s been the higher instances is Erie County, New York,” Schuyler continued, “and if you look at a lot of where our cases have been, they’ve been very close to Erie County where we know there’s been more disease. We know there’s a lot of people who travel to the Erie County area to work, shop, to get their needs met; for family. And there’s been a lot of overlap of people who come from Erie County who come down to the Dunkirk/Fredonia area, whether it’s to seek care or shopping or to do things.”

O’Brien asked about the prevalence of the virus in Erie, Pa., which has a population of about 96,000, compared to Buffalo, with a population of about 250,000. Schuyler noted that Erie, Pa., is part of a region currently reopening its economy, and its overall count remains relatively low.

“We’ll keep watching,” she said. “Of course, we are following up immediately with any positive cases we have, doing the contact tracing and trying to lock people down. I fully anticipate as we reopen we will see more cases; we are going to see more infection. That’s inevitable. I think everybody better just accept that and better be prepared for it and continue the community mitigation measures as we know them — wearing masks, hand washing, really limit any large gatherings. This is going to be a slow process to open up.”

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