Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz declared Thursday that COVID case numbers continue to increase, and he predicts a "dark time" in the coming weeks.
During Thursday afternoon's COVID briefing, Poloncarz announced 651 new cases had been recorded within Erie County on Wednesday alone.
"It's a daily positivity rate of 7.8%. The seven-day positivity average is now up to seven," he said. "I just want to remind everybody, just as recently as Oct. 24, the week ending Oct. 24, the total cases for the entire week, when we were doing tens of thousands of tests a week, were 401. And here yesterday is a new record high for Erie County."
Poloncarz added that every individual who tested positive Wednesday did not test positive previously.
"These are not duplicates and these are Erie County residents. These are not people who may have been tested in our county who just happened to live in Niagara County," he said.
While Poloncarz discussed physical health, County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein addressed mental health. The commissioner acknowledged the anxiety by many over the pandemic, but suggested some of that stress is the result of false information.
"A big source of stress are false rumors. And I think a lot now are being generated on social media," Burstein said. "Really, try to limit your time on social media. A lot of these are are nasty rumors and exaggerations that just will give you a lot of stress because they're not true."
She recommended getting information on COVID from sources including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York State Health Department and Erie County Health Department. She also offered some other pointers to relieve stress, starting with outdoor exercise.
"Also, when people are really stressed, you might want to try to practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation or yoga," Burstein said. "If you're not familiar with any of that, there are a lot of great free videos to learn how to do that yourself at home."
She also recommended renewing hobbies, reading and also stressed the importance of speaking with trusted peers and family.
Burstein and Poloncarz both renewed their pleas to avoid large Thanksgiving gatherings. The county executive also addressed another upcoming holiday season concern, Black Friday shopping.
Retail stores must limit their capacity to 50% under the state's "orange" microcluster zone designation. Poloncarz said local authorities will ensure the big box stores are following those rules.
"We will have our health department inspectors, and I know the state will as well. And we are not adverse to shutting down a retailer, not allowing them to open up their doors because there's hundreds of people waiting in line," he said. "I don't care. I'd rather shut down their doors and cost some national retailer the thousands of dollars in profits they would have made that day, then have hundreds and hundreds or thousands of people potentially get affected because they went crazy at a Walmart or a Target or a Best Buy. We have the ability to do that."