We were economically neutral. Many businesses in the region, in the midst of a global pandemic, were forced to close their doors while restaurants were only able to serve take-away because New York State lasted 64 days in a year “Break.”
From March 15 to May 18, only essential workers were allowed to be in their place of work. Even then, the number at the site had to be greatly reduced by 50% to 75%.
Our Empire State has been the focus of attention in relation to the international health crisis with COVID-19, with many of the cases being located in the hinterland or in the larger cities in the hinterland. At the time, the state governor Andrew Cuomo was performing online and on television daily, providing the numbers and state of the state as the economy was about to begin reopening.
Here at home, that date was set for May 19th. Our total number of cases to this day? Fiftythree.
Fast forward to Monday. During a press conference held by Interim Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel and Christine Schuyler, Director of Public Health, that number was significant again. It was the number of cases during the three-day weekend that included an increase in the highly regarded Tanglewood Group facilities in South County.
How different our world remains as we navigate through this troubling and frustrating age. When we found ourselves in a virus-enforced slowdown, one or two cases a day brought anxiety. Daily single-digit infections are now almost met with a sigh of relief.
Chautauqua County’s numbers, while still on the low end, must be cause for concern. Since we reopened, we’ve seen another 759 infections for a total of 812 by Wednesday afternoon.
From October 8 through Wednesday there were 78 cases – at least 10 a day. This led the county and the health department to take action.
It started on Saturday and lasted on Sunday. An increase was ultimately due to adult facilities.
With the information available, both Wendel and Schuyler announced the outbreak to the public almost immediately. It was the right approach.
“We worked with Tanglewood, the New York State Department of Health, UMPC Chautauqua, and other community partners to help contain this spread.” Wendel said during the hastily planned press conference. “This situation is still evolving, but like other clusters, we wanted to get the information out to the community quickly and effectively.”
It was a very different scenario than what we saw in August. At the time, infections were spreading rapidly at Fieldbrook Foods, but workers and community members in Dunkirk stayed in the dark for almost four days before the crisis became known.
Just another moment compared to the county’s handling of the incident in August. It was early on when residents were told in disbelief that they did not know the cases from the municipal listing. “We are a rural county” Schuyler said on March 27th. “The last thing I want to see are people picking up pitchforks and going witch hunts. It’s not right and it’s not fair. “
It was a strange answer that has since been corrected. When you visit the county’s COVID-19 map online, it is broken down by zip code. This shows a trend that was evident from the start with the virus. Where population centers are largest, the chance of spreading is greater.
However, this major outbreak in Dunkirk continues to be a haunting moment as cases rapidly multiply across the counties. As of August 21 – less than two months ago – there were a total of 286 confirmed cases. By Wednesday evening, that number had risen 284%.
Some may want to point a finger at New York State University in Fredonia, which also saw a big surge in early September. Amazingly, SUNY Fredonia was an exemplary campus due to its precautionary measures and serious consideration of COVID-19. The infections have been around 120 since the end of August.
Compared to other locations, it’s a tremendous victory. This is thanks to the university community, which has been kept up to date from the first positive result on campus.
Knowledge is power, especially in our ongoing struggle to keep the economy moving and staying open while staying safe.
The district leaders were like everyone else from the start. To be fair, they had never dealt with a pandemic and there was no trial run.
Despite a shaky start, residents here today have much more data available to help fight and prevent COVID-19. Maintaining this current state of normalcy depends on these immediate measures and information.
That’s exactly what we had on Monday. It was both unsettling and comforting.
John D’Agostino is the regional editor of OBSERVER, the Post-Journal, and the Times Observer in Warren, Pennsylvania. Send comments to email@example.com or call 366-3000. 253.
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