BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — “We don't like seeing that number increase in the younger age categories and it continues to increase and that's not a good thing,” declared Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Executive.
Poloncarz appeared Wednesday afternoon at the Rath Building with Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein to provide another update on the Coronavirus pandemic.
Erie County continues tracking COVID cases. 8,005 cases currently exist in the county and a total of 663 people have died. 34 are hospitalized, eight are in ICU and three need ventilators.
Poloncarz says ventilator use is at its lowest since the outbreak. But the county is keeping a close watch on the rising number of cases among those 20 to 29 years of age.
The county executive said he is very concerned. More than 35-percent of the new cases are in that 20 to 20 age bracket.
Poloncarz told reporters Wednesday he worries that could cause the virus to spread and our numbers to spike again.
“By far the highest percentage of new cases have been between the 20-29 age group. We know this is because young people are congregating in groups and being more reckless than the general population,” Poloncarz remarked.
The county has received more than 1,600 complaints about bars and restaurants not following COVID protocols. Dr. Burstein said the county is following up on “every” complaint.
Poloncarz says the county will shut down a bar or restaurant if there are repeated violations.
“The only reason we would be shutting down a bar or a restaurant is because they are not following the rules repeatedly. It’s not like we just walk in — okay — we're going to shut you down. It’s repeated violations and when that happens — it's okay — we've got to show you we mean business,” Poloncarz said. “We are doing it to protect the individuals who work in the bars and restaurants as well as the customers.”
County leaders say the latest bar they shut down for repeated violations is Kaz's on Lake Avenue in Blasdell. Poloncarz said it failed to follow the proper rules at least three times.
“They were warned. They were notified. They had multiple visits,” Poloncarz explained.
The bar was in violation again on July 20th during an inspection. The county executive said Kaz’s has issued a correction plan that will be reviewed by the county health department.
Poloncarz said health inspectors continue being harassed on visits to bars and restaurants.
“Our health inspectors have been treated very poorly, such that we've had to also show up with sheriff deputies because they've been harassed. They've been basically told to go where the sun doesn't shine,” replied Poloncarz.
The health department says inspectors will continue to respond to complaints about places where customers are gathering in large numbers, not wearing masks and not following social distancing.
Dr. Burstein also discussed complaints about weddings and parties. She reminds the public there are to be no more than 50 people gathered.
“Cut down the invitation list. making sure everybody wears masks — no dancing — everybody should be at the table — if they're not at the table they have to be social distance and wearing a mask,” responded Burstein.
The county leaders were asked about reports that some people are waiting up to two weeks to get results.
But Poloncarz said it depends on where you for for COVID testing.
“There's a difference between getting it tested in Erie county and through the Erie county department of health. If you go to an urgent care, if you go to a doctors office that's offering tests, if you went to a hospital, they have tests, but they are not sending their tests to be analyzed to our department to health public health lab. They are often being sent out of state,”
The health commissioner said it is best to contact the county and set up a test for quicker results.
“We have a really good supply of tests, test reagent. We have what we need to do get the test turn around in 48 hours,” noted Burstein.
Dr. Burstein said the county health department is also in “frequent communications” with school districts for k-through 12 learning and with the University at Buffalo and other higher education institutions.
“We really want to make the schools help them get it right,” Burstein explained. “We’re helping the schools put systems in place, so they will be able to stay healthy.”
Burstein is also reminding county residents to pay attention to travel bans to other states. She said travelers arriving at the airport should be filling out a form. But the health leader said if you feel a traveler has not been honest, you can contact the health department.
“If you want to report somebody — a friend or a enemy or a co-worker or a neighbor — you can complete this form,” Burstein described.
The county executive reminds everyone that we are in a second wave of this virus. He said he believes there will be a second wave based on science.
“I base it on science. I base it on Dr. Fauci. I base it on the CDC reports. I base it on the reports we get from the Department of Health in Erie County, New York State and elsewhere,” Poloncarz said.
Poloncarz noted that only 5.6-percent of the population has been exposed to the antibodies. He said that means 95-percent “are susceptible to contracting the coronavirus.”