In a world where renowned scientists are racing to decode coronavirus, average citizens have a lot of questions. Many showed up Monday night to the Fruit Belt's Moot Community Center to ask those questions.
The meeting was called by Common Council President Darius Pridgen with Erie County Executive Poloncarz and county Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein as the featured speakers.
While there are national and international issues, the county executive said tests for the COVID-19 virus can be done in county labs and soon at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. He said there aren't any local cases now.
Burstein said there likely will be cases and her department is planning so it will be ready, while reminding people to wash their hands constantly.
One speaker, Casandra, was worried about children.
"Out all the time, away from their parents, even though we do the hand-washing and we tell the preventive care, but when they are in school, how are they being taken care of?" she asked.
Burstein said the health department is working closely with school districts, particularly Buffalo Public Schools because it is the largest district, on what might be done. She pointed out that kids don't seem to be hit as hard by the novel coronavirus as adults.
Rev. Michael Robinson, chaplain at the Buffalo City Mission, wanted to know about homeless and caregivers.
"Either doing employment or outreach ministries, if we encounter someone who has a reasonable scenario that they have been exposed to COVID 19, what steps do we take to make sure that they get some kind of treatment?" he asked. "Often, they don't have the means for transportation and then what should be we do to make sure we're also protecting ourselves?"
Burstein said some self-isolate until they aren't coronavirus positive. She also suggested lots of soap and water.
Arnold Bogis had an overarching question about the organization of hospitals and health care.
"Since bird flu in the early 2000s, hospitals in the state have gotten money from programs like the HPP, the Hospital Preparedness Program, to do surge planning, and I just want to know, have any of our hospitals actually thought this through, beyond current ideas of containment, beyond asking where you have traveled?" he asked.
Burstein said the county is working through how much capacity there is. She said a lot depends on how severely ill the patients are. Around the world, many patients recovered during informal quarantines without hospital stays.