Coronavirus cases rise to 56 in Erie County, Cuomo seeks medical supplies

Mar 22, 2020

There are now 56 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Erie County. County Executive Mark Poloncarz says the Public Health Lab is currently processing 300 swabs that were taken in the past week. He says the results will continue to show more and more people are infected.

"We're going under the assumption that it's everywhere," Poloncarz said. "We have a limited number of tests we can perform. I'm not able to tell you exactly how many people in Erie County have COVID-19 because we're not testing every individual. We don't have the capability of doing that."

Poloncarz said more COVID-19 tests should arrive for use by the county this Tuesday.

There are now nine confirmed cases of coronavirus in Niagara County -- one a 33-year-old man from North Tonawanda who is hospitalized in critical condition.

The number of cases statewide topped the 15,000 mark Sunday. In his briefing Sunday morning, Governor Cuomo called on the Trump administration to use the Defense Production Act that would require private companies to produce masks, gowns and other personal protective equipment.

On Saturday, Cuomo said a shortage of protective equipment for doctors and nurses remains a concern.

"We are literally scouting the globe looking for medical supplies," Cuomo said. "We've identified 2 million N-95 masks which are the high protection masks.

"We have apparel companies that are converting to mask manufacturing companies in the State of New York in all sorts of creative configurations and I want to thank them. I put out a plea (Friday) to ask them for help and we've been on the phone with all sorts of companies who are really doing great work. We're also exploring the State of New York manufacturing masks ourselves."

Kaleida Health announced Saturday it may re-open beds at DeGraff Memorial Hospital in North Tonawanda in response to the Governor's call for additional hospital beds. The emergency room at the St. Joseph campus of Sisters Hospital in Cheektowaga closed at 7:00 Saturday night night as that hospital prepares to accept only those patients suffering from COVID-19.

Starting at 8:00 Sunday night, all non-essential business will come to a halt in New York, though affected businesses can have their employees work from home. The State Attorney General's office has set up a hotline for people to report those companies that are still requiring their employees to come to work. That number is 212-416-8700.

This is the first Sunday all church services are prohibited. Several churches are streaming services on Facebook Live. Still, they're bracing for a painful drop in weekly contributions and possible cutbacks in their programs and staff.