Parts Of Erie County Enter Orange Zone, Face Restrictions
In a move widely anticipated, parts of Western New York will see greater restrictions due to increasing cases of COVID-19.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that parts of Erie County, which were in the state’s designated “yellow zone,” will now go to orange. Parts of the county that weren’t in a zone are now in yellow.
In addition, parts of Niagara County have gone to yellow.
Cuomo said Western New York is facing the “worst situation in the state of New York” in terms of new cases. Statewide, the number of COVID-19 tests coming back positive reached 3.43%, with a seven-day average rate of 2.9%.
Cuomo did reiterate that Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties are not included in the micro-clusters seen in Erie County. As a result, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus are not included in the current restrictions placed on those areas.
In yellow zones, non-residential gatherings are limited to 25 people indoors and outdoors; residential gatherings are limited to 10 people; houses of worship must limit capacity to 50%; schools can remain open but require 20% of weekly testing of in-person students and faculty; and indoor and outdoor dining permitted, but seating limited to four people per table. In addition, bars and restaurants must close at 10 p.m.
In orange zones, non-residential gatherings are limited to 10 people maximum; residential gatherings are limited to 10 people; houses of worship must limit capacity to 33% or 25 people, whichever is less; certain high-risk, non-essential businesses (gyms, fitness center, hair salons and barbershops) must close; and schools must go to remote learning.
In red zones, non-residential and residential gatherings are prohibited; houses of worship must limit capacity to 25% or 10 people, whichever is less; restaurants can provide takeout or deliveries only; and schools must go to remote learning.
The highest positive COVID rates in Western New York include 9.78% in Hamburg; 9.4% in Lancaster; 7.51% in Orchard Park; 7.3% in Buffalo; and 6.84% in Tonawanda.
“Personal opinion,” Cuomo said, “Western New York never lived the full pain of COVID’s wrath. Western New York read about New York City, they read about Long Island. They watched it on the TV news, but the numbers were never as bad in Western New York.”
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz hinted Tuesday that a bump to the orange zone could be coming.
“I did want to note based on some of the most recent information that we’ve had in the last 24 hours that this is a very serious and significant problem that we’re facing in Erie County,” Poloncarz said. “Some people in our community are not taking this seriously, including some of my fellow elected officials. It is time to put politics aside; it is time to work together to create a stronger, better community for all because the statistics show that COVID-19 is everywhere in Erie County.”
Following Cuomo’s announcement Wednesday, Poloncarz addressed the move for most parts of the county to orange.
“It’s fair to say this decision was not made lightly. It is a comprehensive review,” he said. “No one wants to go into the orange zone. … It’s going to make a lot of lives miserable and people without an income for some period of time, but we have to stem the tide of the increasing cases and hospitalizations and the deaths.”
Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel said his team continues to monitor the situation in Erie County, but noted locally, “We’re in a way different position” when it comes to total confirmed cases and positivity rate.
“For our residents, if anything, I thank them for the effort they’ve been doing,” said Wendel, adding that Erie County going to orange in some parts could be used as a “stark reminder” what could happen to area residents and local business owners if health guidelines are not strictly followed in Chautauqua County.
Meanwhile, Cuomo said he expects to see a spike in cases following the Thanksgiving holiday when families typically gather in large numbers. The governor, along with local health officials in the last week, have advised against holiday gatherings as cooler temperatures have forced more people inside.
“You will see a tremendous spike after Thanksgiving — tremendous spike after Thanksgiving,” Cuomo said. “No scientific data, no health commissioner said that. That’s my personal theory.”
He added, “Your family sounds safe, doesn’t it? Your home sounds safe. Your dining room table at Thanksgiving sounds safe. No, you won’t be safe. It’s an illusion.”
HOSPITALIZATIONS UP TO 12
Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Chautauqua County may be on the rise again. According to the county Health Department, 12 people are now in county health care facilities with the virus through Tuesday.
That is an increase from seven on Monday. In addition, 14 new cases were announced from ZIP codes that included: four in Fredonia and Jamestown; two in Sherman; one in Silver Creek, Dunkirk, Clymer and Brocton.
There are 130 active cases and, to date, there have been: 1,247 recovered cases; 16 deaths; and 1,393 total confirmed cases.
Elsewhere, the Cattaraugus County Department of Health reported its 23rd COVID-19-related death, a 77-year-old man who developed respiratory failure and was unable to overcome his illness despite aggressive medical treatment.
The department on Tuesday also announced 52 new cases of the coronavirus, marking 685 cases to date. In addition, 167 cases are considered active as well as 350 people in quarantine and 25 travelers in quarantine.
To date, there have been 494 recoveries, 14 people with COVID-19 hospitalized and a 2.9% seven-day positivity rate.
TEACHERS TEST POSITIVE
The Jamestown Public Schools District on Tuesday said two teachers, one at Persell Middle School and another at Ring Elementary School, tested positive for COVID-19. Both were last in school Friday and, according to the district, there is no known connection between the cases.
“We continue to stress the importance of social distancing, face masks, and frequent hand washing both at school and at home,” said JPS Superintendent Dr. Kevin Whitaker. “If you or your family members experience any COVID-19 symptoms, please stay home and contact your health provider for a diagnosis. We must continue to work together to keep our community safe and well.”
According to the state’s Report Card that tracks COVID cases within schools, Jamestown has had eight students — four on-site and four off-site — test positive for the cornoavirus in addition to two teachers or faculty. Results that come in after the morning are added the following day.