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County Should Follow State’s Lead, Disclose COVID Information

We have disagreed early and often with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of COVID-19 in New York state, but we have to give the governor credit for making the State University of New York system participate in the SUNY COVID-19 Tracker.

SUNY campuses are required to submit data every 24 hours, where it is then posted to the COVID-19 tracker. Parents and community members can quickly find out how many new positive cases there are on a particular campus, how many tests have been given, how many students are in quarantine, if students or employees have been hospitalized and how many isolation rooms are in use and still available. Having such information available each day provides parents and community members at least some of the information they need to monitor COVID infections on campuses.

Parents and community members can only hope that a similar dashboard for public schools works so well when the COVID Report Card site on the state Health Department website comes online. The public school dashboard will include positive infections by date of students and staff and by school and school district; whether the school and district are holding classes remotely, in-person or both; the number of of students and staff on-site; the percentage of on-site students & staff who test positive; the number of tests administered by the school, test type, lab used and lag time; and the date of last submission/update.

The SUNY COVID-19 tracker and the wealth of information it provides makes one wonder if the county Health Department’s policy of identifying COVID-19 cases by county fire battalion has to come to an end as well. Unless there are no cases involving public schools in Chautauqua County, the COVID Report Card page will provide the type of town/school district information the county Health Department has preferred to keep under lock and key for the past six months.

If it’s time for a change, perhaps we should steer the county toward Madison County, which alerts the public to possible COVID-19 exposures in stores or outdoor events on a regular basis — at least 10 times since March, in fact. Another release from Madison County noted an increase in the town of Cazenovia while another noted a spike in cases at one of the region’s nursing homes.

No personal information is being released and there aren’t any groups with pitchforks and torches looking for COVID-19 patients. Instead, those who have a concern that they were at an area where there may have been a public exposure can go and get tested so they and their families have peace of mind.

The information in Chautauqua County is going to start coming out in a few days anyway. We think the Health Department should follow Madison County’s lead and make more information public.

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