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Niagara County looking for more testing equipment

Posted at 11:27 AM, Nov 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 11:27:36-05

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — Health officials say until a vaccine comes, the best way to control COVID-19 cases is by enforcing mask wearing and other safety measures as well as testing, but Niagara County says they don't have what they need to do so.

“It absolutely concerns me,” said Daniel Stapleton, Public Health Director for Niagara County.

Concerned about 467 active cases. Most of them new since last week.

Niagara County is seeing a “significant uptick” in COVID-19.

“[Last] weekend it’s twice as much as the second highest weekend we’ve ever had,” said Stapleton.

Although cases have spiked, hospitalizations haven’t.

“I think the main reason behind that because the average age of the people who are positive has gone down over the past few weeks," said Stapleton.

Halloween parties are a big contributor to the problem, per health officials. Cases are also “steadily increasing” at Niagara University and Niagara County Community College.

Cases are widespread across the county. Throughout the pandemic — Niagara falls, North Tonawanda and Wheatfield have seen the most cases.

The main issue for Stapleton is the lack of testing capabilities. He says he’s ordered more than 20,000 rapid testing kits and requested 10 machines, but has only seen about 10% of those kits and two machines from the state.

“If I don’t get that then my ability to do effective testing and surveillance will be definitely impacted,” Stapleton.

While a sizable chunk of neighboring Erie County is now in the yellow zone, Stapleton says Niagara County may not be too far behind.

“We’re prepared to activate our plan, but if we can’t get the things we need from the state then a plan is only good if you have the resources to actually enact it,” said Stapleton.

A spokesperson for the NYSDOH responded in a statement.

“Since the beginning of this pandemic, New York has worked around the clock to ensure our local partners have the resources they need, especially in Western New York. In the last week alone, thousands of test kits have been sent to Western New York, including 1000 specifically for Niagara county, as well as two additional testing machines. This brings the total for Niagara County to more than 7,000 tests and 7 testing machines in the past few months. along with these shipments, a state-operated testing facility at Niagara Community College has been open since may, remains fully operational and has the capacity to test hundreds of New Yorkers every day. Additionally, with the establishment of a yellow micro-cluster zone in neighboring Erie county, additional testing resources will be sent to Western New York this week.”
-New York State Department of Health Spokesperson