Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein provided their latest update on COVID-19 cases in the county Monday afternoon. While the trends hinted that Erie County might be nearing the flattening of its case curve, officials are renewing their calls for honoring social distancing.
As of 5 p.m. Monday, April 6, there were a total 1,148 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Erie County, including 912 cases that were still active. Thirty fatalities were reported, while 206 other patients had recovered. (Click here for the county's COVID map.)
More than 200 patients were hospitalized, of which a little more than 100 were in ICU. Almost all in ICU required ventilators, according to county statistics.
There was one positive trend detailed among the charts and slides presented by Poloncarz and Burstein, a slowing of the time period for the doubling of cases. Previously, according to Burstein, the doubling was occurring in a two-day period.
"But now in the past couple days, you've seen that the line is not as steep of a slope. Instead it's leveling off a bit," she said. "And that's really reflective. That's good news. And that's really reflective of the social distancing that we did, actually, probably two weeks ago, one to two weeks ago. Every social distancing act that we're doing now is going to be reflective of our hospital admissions and our very ill people, in about one to two weeks from now."
One problem, officials concede, is that the numbers reported do not necessarily reflect the true total of positive cases existing within the county, due to the limited number of tests conducted and available.
Burstein suggested keeping up social distancing would keep the curve "smushed," so it may flatten and stretch out. Local hospitals, she added, continue to work within capacity.
Poloncarz added that no ventilators have been removed to be sent downstate, as many feared might happen late last week.
The county executive is urging the continued respect for social distancing, noting the fines that may be imposed on individuals and businesses caught violating state guidelines. Local police have the jurisdiction to enforce social distancing during the health crisis, and Poloncarz during his briefing offered links for residents who witness violations and wish to complain.
To file complaints against businesses deemed "non-essential" or individuals engaged in gatherings in violation of existing physical distancing guidelines, click here. Employees who wish to raise a commplaint about their own employer are encouraged to click here.
Poloncarz urged people looking ahead to Jewish and Christian holy days later this week to keeping honoring health guidelines and worship from home, and avoid gatherings. He admitted his own family's Easter plans will be among those altered in light of the coronavirus.
"We just ask everyone to follow the rules of physical distancing and proper social distancing. If you do that we will all get through this," he said. "I don't want to hear the stories of churches being open on Good Friday or Easter and then the stories that happen after that of people getting sick."
He called out Bishop Edward Scharfenberger by name. The Albany Catholic bishop, who is overseeing the Diocese of Buffalo on an interim basis, made the decision in mid March to suspend all Sunday and Holy Day masses and related events.
"A lot of people we're not 100% happy with it. But we believe that action alone has helped save lives," Poloncarz said.
He also relayed a warning from the Erie County District Attorney's office, in regard to reports of individuals allegedly coughing or spitting toward police officers. Poloncarz says the DA is prepared to press one of an assortment of charges in such cases.
"The District Attorney is letting everybody know that potential charges may include Attempted Assault in the Second Degree, a Class E felony; Menacing in the Third Degree, a Class B misdemeanor; and Harassment in the Second Degree, a violation," he said. "So if you think it's funny, and you think that 'I'm gonna spit or cough at a police officer,' do it at your own risk. Because even if you don't have COVID-19, you can be charged with any one of these."