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The COVID-19 Game Is To Limit Positivity Rate

This has been a bad week for Chautauqua County when it comes to COVID-19.

The county reported 118 cases from Oct. 11 through Oct. 18 — more than half of them tied to an outbreak of COVID-19 at Tanglewood Manor. Of course, that means that half the cases are from community spread; which should serve as a reminder that we need to wear our masks when we can’t socially distance, socially distance as much as possible and continue using good hygiene.

For all of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s bluster in recent weeks about fining people and municipalities for improper enforcement of mask mandates and social distancing, the spike in cases and this weekend’s spike in hospitalizations hasn’t overloaded hospitals or doctor’s offices, which means the curve has indeed been flattened compared to the fear that ran rampant throughout the country back in March. COVID-19 isn’t spreading rampantly in county schools as was feared. The most on-site infections have come from Dunkirk, which has two on-site students and three on-site teachers districtwide test positive for COVID-19.

More than 100 new cases in a week isn’t a good statistic, but things could be much worse. Our community spread can be limited fairly easily if we all do our part.

Doing so comes with some benefit. For starters, decreasing our positivity rate means movie theaters can open in our county — providing a much-needed return to normal at a time when our outdoor recreation becomes much more difficult. Reducing the COVID-19 positivity rate also means we stay off of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID cluster protocol. Having a big enough COVID outbreak to qualify as a red cluster means a pretty draconian lockdown — 10-person maximum for churches, no mass gatherings of any kind, only essential businesses open, take-out only dining and all-remote learning in schools. The orange warning zone isn’t much better.

Many of the governor’s rules make little sense. They are often arbitrary and contradictory, No matter how much many in Chautauqua County disagree with the governor, he holds all the trump cards because the state Legislature has abdicated its role in the decision-making process — in part by Cuomo’s brilliant election-year ploy of putting $40 million in coronavirus aid into the same legislation as his absurd emergency powers. He sets the rules. And the game, right now, is keeping the percent positivity rate as low as possible so that we aren’t penalized with an economic shutdown.

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