Despite no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus in Western New York, Erie County officials are preparing for the worst.
Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein on Thursday said it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when the coronavirus hits Western New York.
Burstein spoke at a news conference alongside Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz to update the county's preparedness for the virus, which has already been confirmed in 37 countries.
Burstein said the virus is now a global problem.
“We really believe that it will eventually come here,” she said. “All the information we have supports that it will eventually come here. I hope it’s going to take a while, but we have no idea how long it will take.”
There has been one suspected case of the virus in the United State in California, while six cases have been confirmed across the border in Ontario. The sixth confirmed case of coronavirus in Ontario is also the first case in the province of human-to-human transmission. All the other patients had a recent travel history to China.
Without any known vaccines for COVID-19, Burstein said the best preventive measures for individuals is to wash their hands often, use hand sanitizer, keep a healthy physical distance from others, and stay home if you are feeling sick.
Buffalo Police are also warning of a false social media post circulating on Facebook, saying the City of Buffalo is “on high alert due to confirmed coronavirus at ECMC.” Mayor Byron Brown has asked anyone who sees this post to report it to Facebook and to get the latest updates on the virus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A COVID-19 informational page is also available on the Erie County Department of Health website.
WBFO's Mark Wozniak contributed to this story.