MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County executive PJ Wendel says its frustrating to see Governor Andrew Cuomo implement new restrictions to address a recent surge in new COVID-19 cases, especially after he’s utilized a regional approach to controlling the virus for the past several months.
Wendel told WRFA on Thursday that he wasn’t happy to learn about the statewide mandate that requires all restaurants, bars and gyms across the state to close at 10 p.m., while also calling for a ban on hosting private gatherings with more than 10 people. That mandate was issued on Veterans Day and done without consultation with any of the regional COVID-19 control rooms.
“The governor has been doing well with a regional approach and now we’re back to a one-size-fits-all approach. Well, our residents have done a good job, a great job in fact, of wearing masks and following the guidance. We’ve had upticks, sure. We’ve had small clusters in places. But for the most part we’re doing a great job. So why are we being punished or restricted the same as a county that has higher numbers?” Wendel said.
For the limit of 10 people at a private gathering, Wendel also said that it would be difficult if not impossible to enforce locally because most law enforcement agencies don’t have the right to investigate a private gathering unless a crime was being reported. That could only happen in certain instances, such as a college house party where there is underage drinking involved. He said that the governor’s mandates instead fall in the realm of a civil matter that can only be dealt with by the health department.
“There are a lot of constitutional questions when you talk about people’s homes and the number of individuals in that home. The rights of law enforcement to enter somebody’s home on the premise they think there’s more than 10 people – based on the governor’s executive order – is very challenging and hoping we get some more guidance on this,” Wendel said.
Wendel also questioned the inclusion of gyms and fitness centers being required to close at 10 p.m., saying all that does is create a smaller period of time for when people can go into a facility. As a result, it could have the opposite intended effect creating a larger concentration of people inside a facility when it is allowed to be open.
The governor’s new mandates are being imposed due to a surge in cases across the state and region. In Western New York, Erie county was recently listed as a so-called yellow zone due to the uptick in cases. But Chautauqua County appears to be holding its own in recent weeks. In fact, the 7-day rolling average for positive cases for the county this week was at 1.5% for Wednesday. That’s actually lower than the 2.4% 7-day rolling average reported two weeks ago. By comparison, Erie Count has a 7-day rolling average of 6.9% for this week – significantly higher than the 2.9% reported two weeks earlier.
Wendel said he and other local officials have expressed their concerns to the governor’s office and hope he will reconsider his mandate, although he admits that is unlikely. Both mandates take effect Friday.
While the rate of positive cases is so far staying level in Chautauqua County, there is an increase in active cases in recent days. County Health officials reported Thursday that there were 40 new cases of COVID-19 in the county, bringing the total number of known active cases in the county up to 161. That’s close to the all-time high of 166 reported back in early September.
The rise in known active cases is partly due to increased testing in recent days. According to the Forward NY County Dashboard, over 1800 people were tested in Chautauqua County on Tuesday alone, by far the highest single-day testing total since the pandemic began.
Health officials say there were a combined 63 new cases between Wednesday and Thursday (because Wednesday was a holiday, they didn’t offer a complete set of data for that day, and instead included Wednesday’s numbers in with Thursday’s report).
Of the 63 new cases between the two days:
- 44 were from the North County (Dunkirk, Fredonia, Silver Creek, Sheridan, Forestville, Portland).
- 11 cases in 14701 (Jamestown)
- 3 cases in 14712 (Bemus Point)
- 2 cases in 14757 (Mayville)
- 1 case in 14738 (Frewsburg)
- 1 case in 14740 (Gerry)
- 1 case in 14750 (Lakewood)
County Health officials say they are currently monitoring a cluster linked to social clubs in the northern end of the County.
There are also 10 people hospitalized* in Chautauqua County as of Wednesday who’ve tested positive for COVID-19.
Since the start of the pandemic in March there’s been 1277 total confirmed cases, 1101 of which are now listed as recovered. There’s also been 15 deaths.