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County reports 54 new cases of COVID

Photo by Eric Tichy Todd Williamson, a health unit coordinator at UPMC Chautauqua, is pictured Wednesday morning receiving the first official COVID-19 vaccination.

For the past week, Chautauqua County has averaged at least 50 new cases of COVID-19 each day. That trend continued Wednesday, with 54 new cases noted by the Chautauqua County Department of Health.

Of those new cases, which accounts for data collected by county officials Tuesday, seven involve people living in the Fredonia zip code and six in Dunkirk. Elsewhere, Jamestown continues to see a surge in the number of people confirmed to have the virus, with 22 new cases and 799 to date. Countywide, the county’s largest city has had 26.1% of all the cases.

The number of people in the hospital with the virus rose to 37, an increase of two. The number of total active cases, though, continues to drop with 377 at the moment.

There also have been 2,655 total recoveries in the county, 26 deaths, 1,422 people in quarantine and a seven-day positivity rate of 7.1%.

In neighboring Cattaraugus County, 43 new COVID cases were reported, marking 2,151 cases to date in addition to 38 hospitalizations, 1,621 recoveries and 38 virus-related deaths.

Meanwhile, the first COVID vaccines were administered Wednesday morning to employees at UPMC Chautauqua. They included Deanna Fuller, a respiratory therapist, and Todd Williamson, a health unit coordinator.

“I’m just very excited,” Fuller said moments before receiving one of the first doses at the hospital. “I think we should be proud of living in a community that has kept our overall numbers pretty low. You know, you see some people you think aren’t going to recover and they do and it’s like a miracle. But still, this has been a long haul. This is our hope, and help is on the way.”

She added, “Hopefully this will be the change that we need, and it’s the miracle of Christmastime. Hopeful that the New Year will bring us good things.”

UPMC Chautauqua received 900 doses of the Moderna COVID vaccine this week, with 300 being made available to hospital employees and the rest for other front line workers identified in Phase 1, including emergency medical service personnel.

Between seclusion at home and an influx of patients at work, Fuller said it’s been an exhausting year.

“Everyone is just working so hard,” she said. “The nurses here are… everyone is just exhausted but we keep fighting the good fight.”

Rhonda LaMancuso, a registered nurse, administered the vaccinations to Fuller and Williamson. The hospital has 300 doses available for employees and another 600 for other

Cecil Miller, UPMC Chautauqua vice president of operations, said it shouldn’t take more than a couple of weeks to administer vaccines to employees who have volunteered. “We’re certainly encouraging it and giving people all the information they need about the safety and efficacy,” Miller said, “but certainly we’re not forcing anybody to get the vaccine.”

In Dunkirk last week, an emergency room nurse was the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at Brooks-TLC Hospital.

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