Chautauqua County reports 19th COVID death
The Chautauqua County Health Department announced on Monday that a resident in their 70s passed away due to complications from COVID-19.
Health officials announced that 111 cases were reported from Nov. 26 to 29. Of them, 23 are in Jamestown; 16 are in Dunkirk; 15 are in Fredonia; eight are in Bemus Point; five are in Silver Creek; four each are in Frewsburg, Falconer and Westfield; three each are in Brocton, Sherman, Kennedy, Lakewood, South Dayton and Mayville; while Sinclairville, Irving, Panama, Cassadaga, Gerry, Cherry Creek and Ashville each have one new case.
The county also reported 13 hospitalizations. In total there have been 1,675 total cases and 1,494 have recovered.
With the four additional cases announced on Monday — Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday numbers were announced prior to — the county finished the month of November with exactly 600 new cases of COVID-19. That’s the most in any calendar month since a pandemic was declared in March.
County Executive PJ Wendel said Monday that his COVID-19 response team is “expecting” a continued volume of coronavirus cases and that health officials are already trying to plan next steps.
“We are expecting it. … The writing is on the wall, after every holiday we’ve seen that surge,” Wendel told The Post-Journal shortly after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state’s strategy to combat an expected surge in the virus between now and Jan. 2. Cuomo indicated that hospitalization rates would play a factor in a region’s micro-cluster zone classification.
“We’ve reached out to our hospitals, and if you look at our numbers in the hospitals, they are low — we’re monitoring that closely,” Wendel said. “That’s another thing (Cuomo) talked about: going to a color isn’t going to be based on positivity or infection, but also based on hospitals. He even said it today: we know we can’t close down all the way again.”
The health of county residents, he said, remains his and his team’s greatest concern.
“I got an email from someone saying that the last thing we do is worry about the health of our residents,” Wendel said. “That couldn’t be more hurtful. The safety of our residents is first and foremost and that has to continue. Seven people comprise our response team. When those decisions are made, they’re made by everybody and they are made with health and safety in mind. On the other side of it is getting things open.”
Still, Wendel, like other elected officials, is frustrated.
“This many months into it, if we’re seeing the same numbers in December that we saw in March, why is that?” he said. “We didn’t know what was hitting us back then. Why, then, are we still seeing those numbers now? People are wearing masks, businesses are not completely open and we’ve been well below capacity at all of our facilities. Why is it happening again? Our numbers have stayed down. Why then is it going to come back? We’re doing it right and now it’s coming back. That’s the concern I have and that’s the concern our residents need to focus on.”
He added, “We’ve been doing it right and now elsewhere throughout New York state the cases are increasing. Why? For us, we’ve followed the metrics and that’s a concern now. I don’t believe we’ve, the state, has done enough of a high enough level of investigation into what has caused this to continue. We’ve just been working through hot spots.”
He continues to be proud of the job that the county has done in mitigating the virus, citing the control of outbreaks at Fieldbrook Foods, SUNY Fredonia and Tanglewood Manner as examples.
“The proof is in the pudding,” he said. “We’ve done the contact tracing, we’ve done the enforcement and we’ve done all of those things. We could always find the negative, but let’s look at the positive.”
The county Health Department will host two rapid testing clinics on Tuesday and Thursday this week with sites in Jamestown and Dunkirk. While both sites are full, Cuomo mentioned during Tuesday’s press conference that testing would continue to be a major focus for the state.
Wendel, however, said it’s unclear what that will look like.
“We can’t do this ourselves,” he said with regard to the testing. “We need people to do the testing and in free testing, if they give you supplies for free, you cannot charge for a test, but they need to charge to recoup the money. We have partnerships we can work with, but without the ability to charge and recoup the money and the labor cost to get the testing done, it becomes hard. That’s the business end. We have a lot of opportunities and we’re looking at a plan for whatever happens. We’re going to get out there. We just don’t know. We just are waiting for more details.”
Nevertheless, he is proud of how the county has addressed the pandemic.
“That says something as to who we are in this county,” Wendel said. “As much as we complain, people step up. When it’s time to work, they work and dig heels. They do it. It’s testimony to who we are here in Chautauqua County and it makes me proud to see where our numbers are.”
In neighboring Cattaraugus County, 25 new cases were announced Sunday evening giving them a total of 1,101 cases. There are 341 active cases of the virus and 20 patients hospitalized. Since March, 27 have died of the coronavirus in the county.
CHANGES IN REPORTING SYSTEM
Chautauqua County officials also announced changes to its COVID-19 reporting system and public reporting database.
Beginning today, a new COVID-19 Data Dashboard will be available on the Chautauqua County Health Department website, and the timeline for case reporting will be modified.
A new dashboard will be available on the Chautauqua County Health Department webpage. The dashboard will include a summary of recent COVID-19 data including: total cases, new cases, new deaths, active cases, total recoveries, current local hospitalizations, total deaths, quarantined contacts, quarantined travelers, active cases by ZIP code, and the most recent seven-day rolling average percent positivity rate from the NY Forward website. A demographic breakdown of total cases will be available including age group, sex, presence/absence of symptoms, and fatality rates by age group.
There will be no changes to the Chautauqua County COVID-19 map reporting process at this time. A link to the map will be available on the dashboard webpage.
The dashboard will be updated to include the prior day’s numbers by 1 p.m. Monday through Friday with the exception of holidays.
There is also a change in the timing of the reports. Up until this point, daily reports have included the number of cases confirmed that day. Moving forward, the county will report the number of cases confirmed on the prior day. This change in process will improve staff efficiencies, and its numbers will more closely align with those reported on the NY Forward webpage, though there will still be discrepancies due to “our more thorough investigation of reported positive cases,” the county said.