Niagara County is among the areas dealing with the ever-rising toll of COVID-19 while planning for mass vaccinations once Washington approves one or more vaccines against the virus.
Just this past weekend, the Niagara County Health Department reported 158 new cases, pulling the total since the pandemic started to nearly 2,900.
Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton said Monday, the current surge reflects lots of Halloween parties involving college-age young people and students. He said the first cases showed up only a few days later. Contact tracers pinned them to many parties and, later, associates of the infected partiers.
"The numbers are showing it and the information we're getting from the investigations of each one of these individual cases," he said. "Not all, but a lot of them were attending parties. That's why you're seeing some of the school districts having the problems they are in, closing down for a short period of time because they saw a lot of the students going to the same Halloween parties."
Stapleton said there is a possility that Albany will tighten the rules on his county as totals rise, but there has been nothing solid from state government.
"We haven't heard that. Obviously, based on the numbers, we've known know that's a possibility. We hope that we can continue to work on these numbers and try to stop the spread," he said, "but right now we do know that the virus is widespread across Niagara County. It's not a hot zone."
Stapleton said he had just emerged from a meeting with his top staff members who are planning those mass vaccinations to try to push back the surge. Stapleton said he wants to see the vaccine put to immediate use, initially for people who are at high risk and healthcare workers. He also hoped for a vaccine that involves only one shot and not one that requires a person to come back for a second shot.