WNY improves to five of seven metrics, while Finger Lakes - to Poloncarz's frustration - reopens

May 15, 2020

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, during his Friday afternoon COVID-19 briefing, admitted a feeling of disappointment that the Western New York economic region remains short of the necessary goals needed to get New York State's approval to begin reopening the economy. He's also unhappy that a neighboring region is entering phase one, stating their numbers are going in the wrong direction.

According to the figures released by Poloncarz Friday, there were 201 people admitted to hospitals in Erie County for COVID-19. Among them, 63 people were admitted to Intensive Care Units, with 50 of them requiring airway assists.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz delivers his Friday COVID update on the county's YouTube channel.
Credit YouTube/Erie County NY

"I'm not really happy about a lot of what we're seeing, not so much with regards to where our numbers are going, we are headed in the right direction generally. However, I am disappointed that the Finger Lakes Region was able to reopen with numbers that actually we're going the opposite way, going up while we actually are going downwards."

Poloncarz explained that while this region is experiencing an overall downward trend, the state's standard is not just a simple 14-day decline but also a decline based on a three-day rolling average of fewer than 15 hospitalizations.

"It is maddening because it's something that can be controlled by proper social distancing, people wearing their masks when they're out in public," he said. "And if we continue to see growth in that category, and it's not individuals who live in nursing homes, then it's just really out of my hands. It's in the hands of the public, so yeah it's maddening. It's frustrating."

The Finger Lakes Region - which includes Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming Counties - was one of five economic zones that began the slow, gradual reopening their economies Friday. The first of four phases includes reopening construction, manufacturing, supply chain industries and selected retails that must provide curbside pickup.

When the time comes for businesses to be allowed to reopen, they'll be required to post documents stating that they have a plan for how to honor physical distancing and other safety measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. New York State, Poloncarz explained, has posted templates for businesses to use on a section of the governor's website.

"It does not need to be submitted to the state. It does not need to be submitted to the county, but you do need to keep it on site," Poloncarz said. "And it must be available for employees, your State Department of Health, or other safety authorities in the event of an inspection and if they ask for it."

The county executive was also asked about Governor Andrew Cuomo's announcement concerning state beaches. They will open, the governor announced, on Friday, May 22 with restrictions. Cuomo also stated that county and municipal governments were welcome to open their beaches using at least the same level of state distancing rules, but had until May 20 to state their plans.

Poloncarz answered that Wendt Beach, for example, would not typically open until June and won't be able to do so until lifeguards are hired and in place.

"I want to reopen as much as anybody," he said. "I mean, I've got family I haven't seen in a while. I've got hair that's growing like a weed. I want to get us in a reopening phase. I want our businesses to reopen, but we have to do it safely."