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County vaccine numbers trail state

Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties are lagging behind New York state when it comes to vaccinations.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that 15.2% of New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. In Chautauqua County, the number is 14.2% with 18,154 receiving the first dose and 9,502 receiving the second. Cattaraugus County numbers were lower with 9,402 — or 12.2% — receiving the first dose and 4,747 receiving the second.

“I’m confident that we will continue to see increases to our weekly allocation and in turn get even more shots in arms quickly and fairly, but it will take time,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The war isn’t won until every New Yorker has been vaccinated. I urge all qualifying New Yorkers to make an appointment and get the vaccine when their turn comes, and to continue to wear a mask and social distance even after being fully vaccinated.”

Vaccination clinics, sponsored by the county, were held locally at the State University of New York at Fredonia on Saturday and Jamestown Community College on Tuesday.

However, urban upstate counties were reporting much better vaccination numbers than those in the Southern Tier.

Consider: Onondaga County, where Syracuse is located, 20.3% receiving the first dose; Monroe County, home to Rochester, 16.4%; and Erie County, where Buffalo is located, 15.7%.

Overall, according to New York state, the North Country region has 21.1% of its population receiving the first dose while New York City has the fewest amount at 13.5%.

Even with low numbers being reported in the Western Southern Tier, the slow rate of vaccinations in the region is cause for cautious optimism due to lower hospitalization numbers, the scientists at the State University at Buffalo said.

“I was surprised that the vaccine effect shows up so quickly in our models,” said Peter Winkelstein, MD, executive director of UB’s Institute for Healthcare Informatics and clinical professor of pediatrics in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB. He leads the UB team that has been modeling the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus since the start of the pandemic last March.

Models at UB rely on a number of assumptions, including that public health behaviors, such as masking, social distancing and hand hygiene, will continue at the same level, behaviors that Winkelstein said are “absolutely critical” to continuing to see these benefits.

“There is reason for some optimism, he said, “so long as we don’t take our foot off the gas and we continue to engage in all the safety and public health measures.”

COVID infections in the county continued to show a decline. On Tuesday, the Chautauqua County Health Department reported only eight new cases along with one death tied to the virus. There were 116 active cases and 7,598 total cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

Of the new cases, three were from Jamestown; and one each from Dunkirk, Irving, Brocton, Portland and Westfield. Hospitalizations remained at seven.

Cattaraugus County numbers remained a bit worrisome. Twenty-three new cases were reported Monday with 220 active and 18 hospitalized. In all, Health Department officials reported 4,383 cases and a seven-day positivity rate of 3.1%.

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