A Catholic school in Amherst has rejected advice from the Erie County Health Department to go to virtual learning after nine COVID-19 cases were found in three classrooms. This comes as new vaccination sites open Wednesday.
Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said St. Benedict elementary school was told that number of cases qualified as an outbreak and in-school classes should be shut down, but the recommendation was rejected.
"Nine cases in three different classrooms in a very short time period. So we’re considering this an outbreak in the entire school because it’s affecting more than one classroom," Burstein said. "We recommended to the school on a couple of different occasions, on March 5 and March 8, that the school take a 10-day pause from in-person learning and go to complete virtual learning. The school decided not to do that."
There’s been no comment from the school or the Catholic Diocese about why that decision was made. County Executive Mark Poloncarz pointed out a similar recommendation to St. Francis High School in Hamburg led to a return to virtual learning in the fall.
On the subject of vaccines, Poloncarz said he would like to see the shipments coming in getting ever larger. The shipments are up and down, and county workers are doing the best they can with what come in from Albany and Washington, DC.
Niagara County complained Monday that it was receiving only 800 of the 6,500 vaccine doses it ordered and, because of that, had to reduce the number of planned vaccination clinics to one. Erie County, comparatively, is receiving 3,710 doses from the state for the next week of distribution.
"We have lots, lots of mass vaccination efforts going on, whether it’s first dose, second dose, Johnson & Johnson single dose. Locations at SUNY Erie North, SUNY Erie South and KeyBank Center, starting tomorrow," Poloncarz said Tuesday afternoon. "The list is extensive and we are getting the vaccine into the arms of people across our county."
Even with the mass vaccinations, hundreds of county residents are being diagnosed with COVID every day and some die. There are also slowly growing problems in schools, as demonstrated by St. Benedict.