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Chautauqua cases hit 5; Cattaraugus gets first

County Director of Health and Human Services Christine Schuyler speaks during a press conference on the coronavirus outbreak. Photo by Jay Young.

MAYVILLE — The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Chautauqua County has reached five, County Executive PJ Wendel said during a press conference Friday in Mayville.

The individuals confirmed to have COVID-19 include a man in his 60s who recently traveled to New York City and a woman in her 30s with no recent travel history. The other three, announced this week by county officials, include a Panama resident who recently traveled to New York City; a Dunkirk woman in her 30s who recently visited Buffalo; and a Silver Creek man, also in his 30s, who visited Buffalo.

Wendel again stressed the need for social distancing to help limit the spread of the virus, which has virtually reached all parts of the globe. He alluded to the “Greatest Generation,” an aging population more susceptible to getting sick.

“This generation has lived through world wars and several things in their lifetime,” Wendel said.

“But now this invisible war makes them the most vulnerable members of society. We urge you to remember our social distancing and to help out those who are helping us out through our lives.”

“It’s our community responsibility to rise to the challenge and help our fellow neighbors,” he continued. “Helping them begins greatly by social distancing and as been asked by the state Department of Health, stay safe and stay home. Pitch in and help as you can.”

The county executive urged local residents to stay home, limiting the number of trips to the grocery store to once a week if possible. He said to stay in touch with family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers and church members, among others, through phone calls, text messages and emails.

“I ask that all residents please be responsible citizens by doing their part to prevent the spread of this disease in our community, especially among the elderly and those who are at high risk for having complications with COVID-19,” Wendel said. “As we work to ensure the health and safety of all of our residents, we have begun to look at the economic impact that COVID-19 will have on our local economy. As a result, we have engaged the Chautauqua County Partnership for Economic Growth and will focus on an economic recovery resiliency as well as move forward with our health and safety.”

As of Friday afternoon, 16 county residents were in mandatory quarantine; 38 people were in precautionary quarantine; and 49 people were in mandatory isolation. To date, county health officials said 66 tests for the virus have come back negative.”

Christine Schuyler, county public health director, said the county will not give demographic location on those confirmed to have the virus. “I’m going to be very frank and honest when I tell you — it doesn’t matter,” Schuyler said. “We have proof-positive that COVID-19 is now spreading throughout our community. There are cases located in all ends of the county, in every neighboring county around us. … What that means is we really need to be vigilant. We need to be aware that we have a very serious virus spreading in our nation.”

Schuyler said the virus is easily transmittable “and more lethal” than the flu. Those in contact with the individuals confirmed to have COVID-19 are currently being sought.

“Chautauqua County Public Health staff has begun an intensive investigation to identify close contacts of these two residents who have now tested positive for COVID-19,” Schuyler said. “Once identified, our department will notify the close contacts of their potential exposure to COVID-19 and they will be placed under mandatory or precautionary quarantine to monitor for symptoms.”

Tips to help mitigate the spread include washing hands for 20 seconds; avoiding touching your face; avoiding close contact with others by keeping a distance of 6 feet; cleaning surfaces regularly; working from home when possible; and staying home when feeling sick.

Asked about the number of ventilators available locally, Schuyler said she wasn’t aware how many were in the county. However, she said none were being sent to New York City, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pleaded for additional supplies.

She also alluded to new testing options that are being developed that cut down on the time it takes to get results. She said it’s unknown when those tests might be available to health departments in the state.

Meanwhile, the Cattaraugus County Department of Health announced Friday its first confirmed case of the coronavirus. In a message posted around noon, the county Health Department said it had one confirmed case of the virus, with 58 people in mandatory quarantine; 126 people have been tested, with 108 coming back negative.

In its Response Hub, the county said the confirmed case involves an individual in the northwest portion of the county.

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