Poloncarz on COVID rise: 'This is a life-and-death situation'

Nov 18, 2020

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz suggested today will bring bad news, because the COVID-19 rate isn't dropping. He said Albany might hit the county with much more than the widespread yellow zone, but move into the tighter restrictions of orange and red.

"It's time that each of us understand that the next few weeks are not going to be good. We're going to continue to see increased cases. We're going to continue to see increased hospitalizations and, unfortunately, increased deaths if we don't change our ways," Poloncarz said in a short online interview Tuesday. "So I ask you, on behalf of the healthcare professionals in our region who worked so hard during the Spring, please, work together to reduce the spread of COVID."

The county executive said there is widespread community spread of COVID and the further problem of bars and restaurants that aren't following the rules on masking and social distancing.

"Where people are not following the rules properly, I'm glad to say our Department of Health staff is going out, as well as other local municipalities going out, to check on bars and restaurants," Poloncarz said. "The vast majority of them are following the rules and I want to complement the members of the bar and restaurant community who are doing that."

For most of the pandemic locally, the county has operated snitch lines and received many calls about rules violations, from out-of-state travel to bars and restaurants. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown has said there have been situations where police accompanied county sanitarian inspectors into some bars where there were problems.

The governor will be announcing his decision for action statewide. Poloncarz blasted some unnamed politicians who allegedly have said this is all nothing serious.

"To those who are thinking this is just politics and to those in the political arena who are attacking it as as political measure, it's not. This is real. This is not a hoax. This is not a power grab," he said. "The last thing I want to be doing is spending all my time dealing with COVID-19, but as long as it's in our community, I will. This is not a power grab. This is a life-or-death situation."