County reports 20th death in relation to COVID-19

Chautauqua County health officials reported yet another COVID-19-related fatality on Tuesday afternoon — the 20th death in the county from the coronavirus since March.

No further information was released about the individual that died due to the format of the county Health Department’s new reporting system. Health officials did announce that 29 new cases were confirmed positive on Monday, bringing the county to 1,704 confirmed cases since a pandemic was declared in mid-March.

There are four new cases in Dunkirk; three new cases each in Fredonia, Silver Creek and Bemus Point; two each in Jamestown, Irving, Ashville and Clymer; and one each in South Dayton, Brocton, Cherry Creek, Frewsburg, Lakewood, Ripley, Stockton and Westfield.

There are 171 active cases and 13 hospitalizations; 868 people were reported as “quarantined contacts” and there are 10 “quarantined travelers.”

The county’s seven-day average infection rate is 3.7%.

Of the county’s 20 deaths, seven have been in the 70-79 age range, seven in the 80-89 age range, three in the 60-69 age range, and one in each of the 40-49, 50-59 and 90-and-over age ranges.

Neighboring Cattaraugus County announced 37 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday evening, increasing its total cases to 1,138 since March. There are 339 active cases, 772 people have recovered and there are 22 currently hospitalized.

Upper Allegheny Health System, which operates Olean General Hospital and Bradford Regional Medical Center in Pennsylvania, announced in a press release Tuesday that while cases continue to rise in Cattaraugus County region, “we still have enough capacity to run day-to-day operations and, at the same time, care for COVID-19 patients while keeping patients and our workforce safe,” noting that both hospitals have a full supply of personal protective equipment for 90 days and are “fully capable of ramping up COVID-19 bed capacity within 48 hours as we did in the spring, if we experience a surge.”

“While we recognize the increase in hospitalizations in Pennsylvania and New York, OGH and BRMC are in good shape in regards to bed capacity at this time,” the release said. “Like all hospital systems, the key to dealing with the pandemic is having adequate staffing, sufficient testing capacity, and space planning efforts as well as supplies and equipment. Our biggest priority is to protect our staff so they can protect patients. Staff at all hospitals have been impacted by COVID. At this time, the number of hospitalized patients is manageable.”

In a release, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo re-affirmed the state’s prioritization of monitoring hospitalization rates as the holiday season continues post-Thanksgiving utilizing measures that he announced in a press conference on Monday.

“The rate will likely continue to go up through New Year’s and the number one priority when you get into this situation is tracking hospitalizations and ensuring hospitals do not become overwhelmed,” Cuomo said. “Our five-part strategy is focused on that, but it’s also critical that New Yorkers continue to do the right thing by remembering to wash our hands, wear masks and remaining socially distant.”

The five-part strategy includes mandating that hospital networks work within their network and between networks to avoid becoming “overwhelmed” with coronavirus patients similar to what happened during the pandemic’s infancy in the spring.

In announcing the measure, the governor named Erie County Medical Center and Kaleida Health, two Buffalo-based health systems, as examples. But, how this mandate will affect Pennsylvania-based providers, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which operates UPMC Chautauqua in Jamestown, and Allegheny Health Network, which operates Westfield Memorial Hospital, remains unclear.

In a statement to The Post-Journal, Brian Durniok, president of UPMC Chautauqua, said that as a New York-based hospital, the facility “will be expected to collaborate with our regional providers to ensure the safety and wellness of the community.”

“Even before the Governor’s announcement, UPMC Chautauqua has worked closely with our regional county and state officials to provide COVID-related care, such as opening an outpatient testing center, helping local nursing homes and schools with testing and guidance,” Durniok said. “We remain committed to the wellness and safety of the communities in our region.”

Cuomo also announced on Monday an emphasis that kindergarten through eighth grade schools should be kept open if possible. He also announced that schools in an orange or red micro-cluster zone may remain open if they test enough on a weekly basis to meet a 20% or 30% testing threshold, respectively, of all students and staff over a month. Prior to Monday, districts in those zones had to test 100% of their students and staff in a 30-day period to remain open.

While districts are still awaiting more guidance from the state Department of Health, David O’Rourke, Erie-2 Chautauqua Cattaraugus BOCES district superintendent, was encouraged by the news.

“It does appear that the governor is recognizing the relative safety of schools, with all their precautions in place, and there will be new ways for schools to do surveillance testing to keep face-to-face models operating under zone designations more easily,” he said.


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