School closures could have ripple effect on healthcare, emergency services

Mar 15, 2020

Erie and Niagara Counties have declared states of emergency over growing coronavirus concerns. As a result, all schools across the counties will be closed for the near future. What will be the ripple effect?


Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Sunday as he declared a state of emergency.
Credit Ryan Zunner / WBFO News

Schools aren’t just places for learning, they also provide food, social programs, and allow parents time to go to work without worry. Closings could change that.

“There is a concern with the closures of schools indefinitely just of the impact on the ability for healthcare organizations and public safety organizations to have their staff present to address this issue," said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. "They are very worried about the lack and loss of employees due to the grand closures of schools, because parents want to be home to take care of their children.”

Poloncarz also wants parents to know, closure doesn’t mean fun time for your kids.

“You are not to go to Chuck E Cheese with your kids, you are not to go to the mall, you are to stay home," Poloncarz said. "What we’re seeing in some of the communities that have done the mass closures already is that parents are dropping off their kids at one person’s house, then there’s 10 to 15 kids at one person’s house. You might as well be in school because they’re sharing whatever viruses they might have, and we know kids are basically full of germs and they can share it and then take that home.”

Niagara County Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton echoed those same thoughts.

“This is not Easter vacation, don’t go to the mall people," Stapleton said. "The number one way to stop spread of disease, other than those hygienic things I talked about, is keeping away from others.”

To increase social distancing, bars and restaurants have been limited to half capacity in Erie County, and Executive Poloncarz said they will be enforcing that.

“If I was a bar or restaurant and I wanted to have 250 people in my bar and I’m only authorized to have 200, and state liquor authority gets it? They could shut you down, potentially permanently," Poloncarz said. "It’s probably better to lose a few days of business, rather than have your liquor license pulled.”

As of Sunday evening, there were seven confirmed COVID-19 cases in Erie County, with those patients being isolated in their homes. Niagara does not have a confirmed case yet, but officials there say they are taking preventative actions as if they do.