NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — New cases of COVID-19 are rapidly increasing in Niagara County with 200 reported on December 1, 2020; a figure that doubles the previous one-day record.
"We are seeing ten times what we were seeing on a daily basis back in the summertime," said Niagara County Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton.
Niagara Falls, North Tonawanda, and Wheatfield are having the biggest problem. Those areas have easy access to Erie County. "There is no moat that separates us," added Stapleton.
There is speculation that some infected people are coming across to do things in Niagara County that they cannot do in Erie County because of its 'orange zone' designation - such as going to gyms, hair salons, and restaurants.
Stapleton said many of the new cases are with people in their 20's and 30's. While it means fewer deaths, it shows that younger people are not being as cautious because they think they are less vulnerable or are having milder symptoms than older individuals.
The surge is also causing problems for the Niagara County Department of Social Services which had about a dozen employees test positive for the virus. As a result, the entire 2nd floor of the Niagara County Social Services building on 10th Street in Niagara Falls has been shut down.
"It was also deep cleaned which is more aggressive," explained Niagara County Manager Rick Updegrove.
100 employees from six social services departments are in quarantine as a precaution.
Updegrove said efforts are underway to rent space in the Niagara County Trott Access Center to help safely space workers and clients in hopes of preventing disruptions to social service programs.
"Regarding the caseload, our employees and managerial staff have been doing a phenomenal job even in light of the interruptions," added Updegrove.
As of December 1, 2020, Niagara County reported the following:
200 new positive cases
- Total of 4176 positives to date (isolations + recoveries + deaths)
- 1065 active cases (1035 isolating at home, 30 in hospital)
- 3003 recovered
- 108 deaths
According to the New York State Health Department, Niagara County had a 7-day average positive rate of 6.8%, which is only slightly less than Erie County's 7.3% average for the same period (testing data as of 11/29/20 NYSDOH).
North Tonawanda has already been declared a yellow zone microcluster, but could other parts of Niagara County also be designated as either yellow or orange microclusters?
"I don't know what it means and I don't think anybody knows what it means," commented Daniel Stapleton.
The public health director said there is a feeling that the Governor's office is thinking twice before imposing more restrictions that could make it harder to keep schools open - especially for younger kids who are not doing as well with remote learning.
Since Niagara County did not get any 'Cares Act' money, as Erie County did, Stapleton is hoping NYS will provide funding so he can increase his nursing staff from 13 to 50, add more contact tracers, provide rapid testing (there are currently no rapid testing sites in Niagara County), and help gear-up for COVID vaccinations.
With Niagara County Health Department nurses are already working extra hours, the county is reminding people who get a COVID test to remain in quarantine until they get the results. Don't wait for the health department to call as it is backed up.
Besides following proper health safety protocols for COVID, the county health department is strongly urging everyone to make sure they get a flu shot as it can help strengthen your immune system against possible COVID infection.