Erie County awaits word from Albany on COVID yellow, orange or red status

Nov 16, 2020

There was no decision made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo Monday whether the portion of Erie County already in a COVID "yellow zone" may soon move to orange or red restrictions. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he expected to hear from Albany soon, while admitting the rising case numbers are discouraging.

As he reported during a Monday afternoon briefing, Erie County's seven-day rolling average COVID positivity rate was at 7.32%. On Saturday, there were 156 individuals hospitalized.

Credit Office of the Erie County Executive

"And the most recent data for the 14th shows that nearly 50% of all patients in the hospital with COVID-19 are 64 and under," Poloncarz said. "I've confirmed with hospital leaders, including those at Kaleida as well as Catholic Health, that they are seeing a rapid increase in hospitalizations. And there are many more people coming to the hospital now who are under the age of 60 then there were early in the outbreak."

The county executive blamed factors including establishments being open that weren't during the spring lockdown and individuals who do not take the pandemic seriously.

"You can see in the past couple weeks, we've had seen an exponential rise in the proportion of positive tests and the number of positive tests in Erie County," added Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein. "And actually, 31% of all the Erie County cases reported since the beginning of the pandemic were in the last four weeks and 16% of all the cases reported in Erie County since the beginning of the pandemic were just in the past week itself."

Why did the governor hesitate to act on Erie County's COVID status Monday? Poloncarz explained, officials in Albany want to review a full week's data before deciding and that would include the data from Monday itself. He's anticipating communication from Cuomo "over the next 24 hours," but admitted there was no downward trend in the available numbers.

The possibilities include an expansion of the yellow zone to other parts of Erie County and communities beyond the county line, or a move to orange zone status. That would implement tighter restrictions including the closure of non-essential businesses.

The county executive also renewed a strong recommendation to avoid hosting any large gatherings for the Thanksgiving holiday next week.

"I don't want people to think we don't want you to have Thanksgiving. Just have Thanksgiving with your immediate family," Poloncarz said. "And you want to get the best example of it? Our friends to the north in Canada had Thanksgiving in October and they are already getting statistical evidence now that shows that at many of their Thanksgiving ceremonies in October, COVID was passed from one family member or friend to another. And it's helped drive the cases up in Canada."

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