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County Sees Largest Spike In New COVID Cases

Chautauqua County recorded its single-day, largest increase in new cases of COVID-19.

The county Health Department reported 90 new cases on Friday, beating the previous single-day record of 57 new cases from Dec. 2.

Of the new cases, 23 involve people living in the Jamestown zip code, 12 in Fredonia, eight in Dunkirk, 14 in Mayville, nine in Lakewood and four each in Ripley and Bemus Point. Several municipalities have one or two cases as well.

The number of active cases increased as well, from 199 on Thursday to 263 on Friday. Over 25% of those cases are in Jamestown, over 19% are in Dunkirk and 18% are in Fredonia.

The source of the new cases wasn’t immediately clear; dozens of inmates and staff at the Chautauqua County Jail tested positive for COVID-19 following an outbreak. The county also held a rapid testing site this week.

County Executive PJ Wendel said that Friday’s numbers could be from the Thanksgiving holiday.

“We’re seven days out and the incubation period is 5-7 days from whatever the contact may be,” he said. “The bottom line is: we don’t know. We haven’t been able to predict COVID, but I urge every resident of Chautauqua County to wear your face mask and protect others. There’s really nothing more to be said: your behavior is reflective on other people. … The repercussions on other people is what is really important.”

Wendel said he was pleased to hear 26 infected patients who recovered in the last 24 hours and that the county’s hospitalization number — on a day in which record new cases were reported — only increased by one to 15.

“We need to keep those things in mind,” he said. “We’re not making light of anything. This is serious, but when we look at those points now that the governor is looking at — our hospitalizations only went up by one.”

Cuomo mentioned the hospitalization rate during a conference call with media members held late Friday afternoon.

“The infection rate is not all that relevant anymore,” he said. “We’re focusing on the hospitalization rate and hospital capacity. Hospitalization rate… compared to population.”

The Western New York region, which encompasses Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, stands at a .03 hospitalization rate.

“This is why it’s important: if you do not feel well, take care of yourself,” added Wendel. “Reach out to your primary-care physician. You can’t say it’s just a cold and let it go for a day. We are beyond ‘I may get over this.’ It’s not the wise thing to do. If you have allergies, you have allergies, but if something just is not right, seek medical attention. Those are the cases that we are finding out are ending up as COVID.”

Wendel likened the region’s continuing battle against COVID-19 to that of a boxer.

“Two to three weeks ago we saw a peak or a surge,” he said. “It’s like getting hit with a punch, another punch after Thanksgiving and a third punch post Christmas. How many times can our healthcare systems take these punches and get back up before we inundate anything here in our county?”

He added, “People have to be very aware: their behavior is what impacts this. Not my behavior. I could request everybody do something. We could demand it, but if people don’t do it, their choices have consequences for other people.”

He did commend county residents for their work in keeping rates low.

“Our residents have done great — we might still be talking to a handful of people,” he said. “They need to take heed and listen. I urge everybody: they have to be safe. With these unknowns. We do know that we can be fatal. We do know that it infects people differently. We do know that we can flatten a curve by following guidelines, wearing masks and social distancing.”

Neighboring Cattaraugus County, meanwhile, reported 62 cases for Thursday. There are 1,278 total cases, 387 of which are active. Twenty are hospitalized and 31 have died.

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