New Variants May Be Cause Of Higher COVID Cases In WNY
Officials believe the new COVID-19 variants may be the cause of the increase of deaths and positive cases in Western New York.
From Friday to Sunday, the Chautauqua County Health Department reported 93 new coronavirus cases and two additional deaths. The two individuals who passed away were males. One was in his 60s and the other in his 80s.
Overall, there have been 8,744 cases with 209 currently active and 8,391 recoveries. There has been 144 deaths linked to the virus locally.
According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Western New York has the highest positive percentage result in the state, at 4.78% over the last seven days. That said, Chautauqua County’s positivity rate is among the lowest in Western New York at 2.2%. Only Allegany has a lower seven day rate at 1.8%. Neighboring Cattaraugus County’s seven day rate is 4.4% while Erie County’s is even higher at 5.3%.
Statewide, New York’s positivity rate is 2.94%.
Even though Chautauqua County’s numbers are better than its neighbors and even better than the state average, Health and Human Services Director Christine Schuyler is still concerned.
“The steady increase in cases is concerning here and most likely related to the greater amount of COVID-19 variants now circulating in our region. I don’t know of any variant testing having occurred on COVID-19 samples from Chautauqua County but know that variants have been found in Erie County NY,” she said in an email Monday.
According to Schuyler, these variants are more contagious than the earlier forms of the virus, SARS-CoV-2, that causes COVID-19, and will likely cause more illness.
Because of this, she is pushing for everyone to get the vaccine. “Regional data is showing that the vaccine is working to prevent illness, especially more serious illness that could require hospitalization, particularly in older adults and those with chronic health conditions of any age. We know that the vaccines available now work but that effectiveness may change if enough people don’t get vaccinated now – before these very contagious strains go wild and have a chance to continue to mutate in unvaccinated persons,” she said.
Cuomo blames the spread in Western New York on people becoming too lax. “We don’t believe anything accounts for that (increase) other than the variation in human behavior and the precautions people take and how seriously they take COVID,” he said during his briefing Monday.
He added that the state is not looking at additional restrictions, but noted they are doing research on the higher numbers in Western New York, in order to get it under control.
On Monday, Cuomo announces loosening some restrictions statewide. Beginning April 26, museums, zoos, aquariums and botanical gardens can increase capacity to 50% and movie theaters can increase capacity to 33%. Beginning May 19, large indoor arenas, including sports arenas, can increase capacity to 25%. That date was chosen because of the NBA playoffs, which are scheduled to start May 22. NHL playoffs, meanwhile, are scheduled to start May 11. Those playoffs will not include the Buffalo Sabres, which has been eliminated from the post season.
Even with the increase of cases in Western New York, Schuyler still has hope in our community. “We’re close to the finish line and can’t afford to lose the race now. It’s really important that everyone who can get vaccinated, gets vaccinated. In addition to getting vaccinated, of course, we need to not let our guard down and maintain disease prevention measures while working to achieve herd immunity. That is really the finish line,” she said.
VACCINATION APPOINTMENTS OPEN
The county Health Department announced it has COVID-19 Moderna vaccination appointments available at Jamestown Community College today from 1-6 p.m. for those 18 and older who live, study, work or do business in New York state.
Walk-in appointments will be available from 3:30-5:30 p.m. only. Those who attend must show ID and be available for a second dose May 18.
To register, visit: apps2.health.ny.gov/doh2/applinks/cdmspr/2/counties?DateID=C01BD6B632C8046CE0530A6C7C166456
Those without internet ACCESS can call 1-866-604-6789 for assistance.