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If Elective Surgeries Can Resume, Then So Should Economy

One of the main reasons to shut down our society was to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases.

Why, then, are reopening plans for the economy being handled differently than the reopening plans for elective procedures in hospitals? It’s a valid question whose answer directly affects each and every Chautauqua County resident.

Late last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that elective procedures could resume in many areas of the state, including Chautauqua County. At UPMC Chautauqua, the governor’s decision means health care procedures that weren’t essential but are still an important part of keeping people healthy that were postponed in March can resume. That’s good news, as we said last week, because the area residents need to have access to such essential care.

It does seem incongruous, though, that the marching orders from the state are to reopen hospitals to elective procedures in counties like Chautauqua and Cattaraugus that have hardly any active COVID-19 cases, yet base those same counties’ economic reopening on Erie County’s ability to have 14 days of continuous decline in COVID-19 cases.

In fact, the state’s logic with hospitals is sound. Areas with higher numbers of cases should place a higher emphasis on treating COVID-19 infections. When a county has few enough cases that its the health care system can handle its COVID-19 cases, then the health care system should expand to allow more types of care.

If that logic works for a county’s hospitals, then it should apply to a county’s business community as well. One can’t stop travel from one county to another, as is evidenced by essential workers in the Buffalo area traveling to Chautauqua County for work or for Chautauqua County residents who travel to the Buffalo or Erie areas for work. We must all have faith that reasonable people will travel only if they are symptom-free and are willing to take the proper precautions to keep themselves and others safe.

Those precautions exist whether or not Erie County’s hospitalization rate declines for 14 consecutive days, and once you realize that, keeping rural areas closed on account of the Buffalo region makes little sense.

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