Niagara County cautions that face masks, social distancing still apply, as NY Forward begins

May 19, 2020

There is going to be a rush to re-start Niagara County, now that Albany is allowing Phase One to start, especially construction and manufacturing. 

Niagara County officials are happy about the lockdown finally starting to ease, although they are warning members of the public that face masks and social distancing rules are still in effect.The county has been hit hard by COVID-19, particularly a Newfane nursing home.

The last obstacle to re-opening the five counties in the Western New York COVID-19 region was having 521 contact tracers. In public health, they serve as the investigators when an illness appears or when a disease spreads.

Niagara Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton said his department has had the tracers for decades. Now, they are being re-trained today to follow the contacts of new coronoavirus cases. Deputy sheriffs will also get the training to go with their experience in investigations.

"We have 22 people, public health professionals, that are ready to roll - and this is something that has never been done to this extent," he said. "We do this regularly on small outbreaks, but when you are talking about an entire county, entire country, then it's bigger than we have ever done before, but we are definitely up for that challenge. Our people are trained professionals who will be able to meet the need of our community."

County Legislature Chair Becky Wydysh told her daily briefing Monday, the public can decide if the lockdown continues to ease.

"Part of this is up to you. Part of it is up to the community," Wydysh said. "We know that we have been given the green light for businesses in Phase One to re-open, but we still really need everyone following those safety guidelines. As we put more people back into work together, as more businesses begin to open and the public is coming in, it's going to be more important than ever to make sure you are following those guidelines, staying six feet apart, keeping your mask on."

Albany can reverse the startup if things turn and the rates of hospitalization and death start to rise. One of the keys to Phase One is that employers are required to prepare safety plans and make sure the workers can see them.