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COVID Test Kits Made Available As Cases Spike Locally

Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist is pictured Wednesday afternoon handing out at-home COVID-19 test kits. The city received 500 of the kits, which included two at-home COVID tests, a face mask and hand sanitizer. P-J photo by Eric Tichy

At-home COVID-19 tests and face masks are being given to local municipalities for distribution to area residents. The effort comes as Chautauqua County has been averaging more than 260 new confirmed cases of the virus each day.

In Jamestown, 500 test kits were available to city residents at a number of distribution points Wednesday. The first, at James Prendergast Library at 1 p.m., saw a line of about two dozen people seeking the kits, which included two at-home COVID tests, a face mask and hand sanitizer.

“It’s really important now that people are able to have testing at their home and other locations as the nation is experiencing a shortage of test kits,” said Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist, who helped Wednesday to hand out the kits. “We’re really excited to be partnering with the county, New York state as well as The Resource Center, who actually provided masks to add to our test kits to make sure that people are able to have tests on hand so they can get tested at home quickly and they’re not waiting for days to get results.”

Elsewhere, the city of Dunkirk received about 200 of the COVID-19 at-home test kits, which were quickly gobbled up by local residents. “It was very well received,” Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas said of the distribution, held Saturday at city hall. “Some people got here too late and didn’t get one.”

About 3,350 kits were made available to the county from the state. Towns were set to receive 100 kits each while villages were to receive 50. Distribution is part of a “multi-layered approach” to mitigate the spread of the virus during a period of “heightened community transmission,” the county said in a news release.

“I thank our mayors and supervisors for stepping up to assist with distributing these masks and test kits across the County,” County Executive PJ Wendel said. “Our goal is to make these items available in areas that are easily accessible to the public and our local municipalities are the perfect partner for this. Some of these supplies may also be helpful for our local municipalities to keep their employees safe and to allow them to continue providing important services to their constituents.”

The Chautauqua County Office of Emergency Services began delivering the at-home test kits to local municipalities last week, and all municipalities who requested the items were expected to receive the deliveries by the end of this week.

COVID CASES SPIKE

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Chautauqua County skyrockted last week, with 265 cases reported on average each day.

Between Jan. 2 and Jan. 8, the county Health Department reported 1,855 cases. By comparison, there were 852 cases reported the week ending Jan. 1; 544 cases the week ending Dec. 25; 689 the week ending Dec. 18; 726 the week ending Dec. 11; and 872 the week ending Dec. 4.

As of Saturday there were 1,384 active cases of the virus among county residents, an increase of nearly 500 from the previous week. There were also 28 people with COVID in local hospitals and 993 people in quarantine.

The local COVID rate may be even higher. Currently only positive home rest results that are self reported to Chautauqua County get included in the daily positive cases. The county’s website states it does not want residents reporting negative tests from at home tests, nor positive tests obtained from a doctor’s office, clinic, hospital, pharmacy, on-site at a school, or any testing site or program operated by the Chautauqua County Health Department. “Results from those tests are reported to us automatically by the lab,” the county website states.

But health officials do want residents who test positive from at home tests to self report on the county’s website. “At-home COVID-19 tests are a blessing when it comes to quickly identifying COVID-19 in the community and reducing its spread accordingly when those who test positive stay home and isolate themselves,” said Public Health Director Christine Schuyler in an email to this newspaper. “Individuals can notify us of their positive results via a form on our website (chqgov.com) and if official isolation papers are needed, they can also be downloaded along with the individual’s official affirmation of infection/isolation.”

And she recognizes that not everyone who tests positive with an at-home test will necessarily go to the county’s website to report their result. “COVID-19 case data cannot adequately reflect all of the home results as we know that negative results aren’t generally reported at all and only some positive results are reported,” she said.

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