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covid-19 Staying focused on next steps

The OBSERVER's view

The news that one of the people to test positive recently for COVID-19 works for a Chautauqua County nursing home brings two things to mind that everyone in our area must keep in mind for the next several months.

First, everyone needs to act cautiously, but especially anyone who deals with the elderly. There are a lot of opinions out there, but COVID-19’s effect on the elderly is pretty well agreed upon. Wear masks. Social distance. For as sparse as infections have been in Chautauqua County, COVID-19 is not a virus that anyone wants to have. While it is not turning out to have the mortality that was first expected, having the novel coronavirus is certainly no picnic either. It is not something you want to spread to your children or your older parents. The fact that the latest county case is an employee in a nursing home just reinforces that fact. Those who deal with the elderly in particular need to follow CDC recommendations to prevent the coronavirus from spreading amongst our county’s most vulnerable populations.

Second, the fact that our county continues to have positive cases is not an argument against reopening segments of our county’s economy. As more testing is done, there will be more positive cases of COVID-19. The number to be aware of is hospitalizations and testing capacity, particularly in our county. As Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, have said, hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Chautauqua County have been low. We want to keep it that way whenever our economy begins to reopen. Testing, on the other hand, is murkier, Western New York meets the testing metrics, but Chautauqua County has lagged on testing capacity — in part because so many county residents have been largely symptom free. With Wellnow offering testing as well as the recent agreement with Quest Diagnostics to provide testing in Chautauqua County, there should be no reason why Chautauqua County isn’t meeting the governor’s mandate of 30 tests per 1,000 residents.

It is time for nuance in our reopening discussions. Protesting the simple act of wearing a mask in public is a bit silly. Given our current circumstances, one might as well protest wearing pants in public. The masks and some form of social distancing are here for a while. Arguing that county businesses need to stay closed until there is a vaccine or an unreachable number of tests available is similarly silly. Unfortunately, those are the arguments many are hearing, and they are ultimately counterproductive.

Our way forward is in the middle of those two silly arguments. Wear a mask. Social distance. If you feel sick, stay home. Get tested if you think you have COVID-19 symptoms and isolate yourself when you start having symptoms. While doing those things, reopen our economy and get people back to work.

We must not run headlong into life as it was six months ago, nor should we retreat into a cocoon for the next six months either.

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