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UPMC Chautauqua To Keep Mask Mandate

UPMC Chautauqua is pictured at its Foote Avenue location in Jamestown. P-J file photo

Noting that COVID-19 remains in the community, albeit far less prevalent than the first of the year, UPMC Chautauqua said it will continue to require its employees and those visiting the hospital and its facilities to wear face masks and remain socially distanced.

“From a hospital perspective, the virus is still in the community and still a threat to the population,” said Brian Durniok, UPMC Chautauqua president. “We recognize we are still seeing people in the emergency department and as in-patients; it’s a decision that we still have to navigate. Many of our patients are still highly vulnerable to COVID. With that in mind … we’re going to have all employees wear masks and we will continue to advocate for social distancing.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week announced that New York was adopting new guidance on masks outlined recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccinated residents can let go of pandemic restrictions like wearing masks or social distancing and “get back to life,” Cuomo said.

Unvaccinated and immunocompromised people must continue to wear a mask and maintain at least 6 feet of social distancing, but people who have waited two weeks after completing their inoculation series no longer have to do either, starting today.

Masks will still be required for everyone in certain settings, like schools and nursing homes.

In Chautauqua County, more than 47,000 residents have completed their vaccination series, while 54,000 have received at least one shot.

Some businesses, including Walmart and Costco, were quick to drop face mask requirements for fully vaccinated customers and employees unless required by individual state laws.

For UPMC Chautauqua, the decision to keep the mandates comes down to safety, both for hospital employees and patients. Durniok acknowledged there are far fewer people in the hospital now with COVID-19 than during the post-holiday surge in January and February. But that doesn’t mean the virus has disappeared, the hospital president said.

“The good news is that we don’t see the active cases we had,” he said, “but it’s still out there.”

In speaking to nurses and the leadership team at the hospital, employees were “very much in favor” of keeping the protocols in place, Durniok said, noting that those “on the front lines of the pandemic” witnessed the impacts of the virus and “want to keep people safe. That’s what they’re here for.”

FEW NEW CASES

The county Health Department on Tuesday reported only five new confirmed cases of COVID-19, along with 65 active cases, three people with the virus in the hospital and 294 in quarantine. To date there have been 9,152 total confirmed cases, 8,934 recoveries and 153 virus-related deaths.

In Cattaraugus County, there have been 5,632 confirmed cases to date, 5,400 recoveries and 103 virus-related deaths.

SEVERAL CLINICS PLANNED

There are several COVID-19 vaccination clinics taking place in Chautauqua County.

A walk-in clinic will be held today at the Mental Health Association, 31 Water St., Jamestown, beginning at 10:30 a.m.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, a clinic will be held at The Chautauqua Center, 107 Institute St., Jamestown, to anyone over the age of 18. Appointments can be scheduled on the home page of tcchealth.org. Walk-ins also will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Brooks Memorial Hospital, 529 Central Ave., Dunkirk, will administer doses Friday from 8-10 a.m.

A drive-through clinic will take place from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 25, at the Cassadaga Valley Central School bus garage, 5935 Route 60. The garage also will be the site of clinics Tuesday, June 1, and Tuesday, June 8.

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