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First COVID-19 cases from city, Silver Creek

Confirmations may bring more test kits to county

MAYVILLE — The first two cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Chautauqua County.

The announcement was made by County Executive PJ Wendel during a press conference Monday afternoon at the Gerace Office Building. The county Department of Health and Human Services was made aware of the positive cases — a female Dunkirk resident in her 30s and a male Silver Creek resident also in his 30s — shortly before the press conference.

Both residents recently traveled to Buffalo, where multiple cases of the COVID-19 virus have been confirmed.

“These individuals appear to have had separate exposures to the novel coronavirus,” Wendel said. “Both of these individuals have been in precautionary quarantine by the department of health. As of this date, neither individual has required hospitalization. Each will continue to recover at home under mandatory isolation per New York state Department of Health guidelines.”

Wendel said county public health staff have begun an “extensive investigation” to identify those who may have had contact with the two residents confirmed to have the virus. When identified, the county executive said health officials will notify those who may have been exposed while being placed in mandatory quarantine to monitor for symptoms.

In a news release, Brooks-TLC confirmed that the woman who tested positive for the virus had been assessed at the hospital before being discharged with instructions to isolate and quarantine at home.

Further, the hospital said the patient was screened upon arrival; that appropriate measures were implemented to reduce the risk of exposure during triage; and that hospital staff wore personal protective equipment to avoid exposure to the virus.

With a national shortage of personal protective equipment, Wendel said it is “critical that laboratory testing be prioritized for hospitalized patients and the very sick. It is critical that we protect our health care workforce. Any resident experiencing a fever with cough or shortness of breath should call their health care provider first for guidance.

“Do not show up at their office, urgent care or (emergency room) before calling. Only if your symptoms are severe call 911, and the 911 dispatcher will screen your call as per established protocol. We will continue to monitor the situation and update the public on a regular basis.”

Christine Schuyler, county director of health and human services, said the confirmed cases were not a surprise to health officials.

“As we have been saying, my full assumption has been that the coronavirus is spreading around our community,” she said. “The lab-confirmed cases just give us that official confirmation of what we have been thinking and what we have been preparing for. I fully expect to see more positive cases — we have several cases pending at various laboratories.”

Schuyler again stressed the need for area residents to abide by local, state and federal guidelines, including washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth; avoiding close contact with those who are sick; staying home when sick; covering a cough or sneeze; and cleaning frequently touched objects.

“This is a pandemic,” Schuyler said. “Distance yourself from others. We ask that you maintain 6 feet between yourself and other people and avoid any sort of gatherings.”

With the positive cases, Schuyler said the county will move up the list of prioritized regions to receive supplies from the state and federal governments.

She also cautioned where residents receive their information.

“Social media is running rampant with rumors and false truths,” Schuyler said. “This is a time for calm, a time when we need to be mindful of ourselves, of our health and of our community and our surroundings.

“We can be vigilant but we need not be panicked. It really does not matter if you have mild respiratory symptoms and don’t get tested for COVID-19. Nothing is going to change. There is no treatment, there is no vaccine. You need to stay home if you’re ill, and please be respectful of others who may not be able to fight off a virus such as this as you can.”

Asked about large gatherings still being observed, including at grocery stores, Schuyler said if people were waiting for the first confirmation to believe that the virus had made it locally now was the time to take it seriously.

“It’s all of our jobs. … Every single person in this community, it’s your job to help keep this illness from spreading. To help flatten that curve so we don’t have so many people so acutely ill that our health care workers are completely overwhelmed.”

Anyone with questions regarding the virus or travel-related questions are asked to call the New York State Department of Health hotline at 1-888-364-3065. For locally specific information, county residents can call 1-866-604-6789 during normal business hours.

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