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Parts of Erie County enter orange zone as COVID numbers increase

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Parts of Western New York, mostly in Erie County and areas to its north, will see greater restrictions due to increasing cases of COVID-19.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that parts of Erie County that were in the state’s designated “yellow zone” will now go to orange. Parts of the county that weren’t in a zone are now in yellow.

In addition, parts of Niagara County have gone to yellow.

Western New York is facing the “worst situation in the state of New York,” Cuomo said during a press conference.

Statewide, the positivity rate for COVID-19 reached 3.43%, with a seven-day average rate of 2.9%.

Cuomo did reiterate that Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties are not included in the micro-clusters seen north in Erie County. As a result, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus are not included in the current restrictions placed on those other areas.

In yellow zones, non-residential gatherings are limited to 25 people indoors and outdoors; residential gatherings are limited to 10 people; houses of worship must limit capacity to 50%; schools can remain open but require 20% of weekly testing of in-person students and faculty; and indoor and outdoor dining permitted, but seating limited to four people per table. In addition, bars and restaurants must close at 10 p.m.

In orange zones, non-residential gatherings are limited to 10 people maximum; residential gatherings are limited to 10 people; houses of worship must limit capacity to 33% or 25 people, whichever is less; certain high-risk, non-essential businesses (gyms, fitness center, hair salons and barbershops) must close; and schools must go to remote learning.

In red zones, non-residential and residential gatherings are prohibited; houses of worship must limit capacity to 25% or 10 people, whichever is less; restaurants can provide takeout or deliveries only; and schools must go to remote learning.

“Personal opinion,” Cuomo said, “Western New York never lived the full pain of COVID’s wrath. Western New York read about New York City, they read about Long Island. They watched it on the TV news, but the numbers were never as bad in Western New York.”

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz hinted Tuesday that orange zones could be coming.

“I did want to note based on some of the most recent information that we’ve had in the last 24 hours that this is a very serious and significant problem that we’re facing in Erie County,” Poloncarz said. “Some people in our community are not taking this seriously, including some of my fellow elected officials. It is time to put politics aside; it is time to work together to create a stronger, better community for all because the statistics show that COVID-19 is everywhere in Erie County.”

Regarding the upcoming holiday, Cuomo said, “You will see a tremendous spike after Thanksgiving. Tremendous spike after Thanksgiving. No scientific data, no health commissioner said that. That’s my personal theory.”

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