'Treat us fairly,' elected leaders advocate for lifting Orange Zone restrictions in Erie County

Posted at 3:26 PM, Jan 12, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Much of Erie County was designated an Orange Zone by state officials in November in response to increased COVID-19 positivity rates in the region.

Those Orange Zone restrictions are still in place and some local elected leaders are calling on the state to lift those restrictions.

In a COVID-19 update Tuesday Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he has advocated for the county to have its Orange Zone restrictions shifted to Yellow Zone restrictions and called on the state to treat the county fairly.

"I do not believe it's fair for the entire portion that's in the Orange Zone to stay in the Orange Zone when we have numbers that are better than other parts of New York State," said Poloncarz. "I have told the governor that, he gave me his word they were looking at it, I hope they move our community to the Yellow. I will note this, if Erie County should stay in the orange then almost all of Upstate New York should be in the orange."

Assemblymember Monica P. Wallace (D-Lancaster) has also called on Gov. Cuomo to remove the Orange Zone restrictions in the county, or provide reasoning for the restrictions.

“Restaurateurs in Erie County’s orange zone are watching their businesses slowly go under as their customers enjoy indoor dining at establishments only a few miles down the road,” said Assemblymember Wallace. “These inconsistencies in public health restrictions are incredibly frustrating and harmful to these small businesses, many of which will not survive much longer under these conditions. It’s time for Governor Cuomo to loosen the nearly two-month ban on indoor dining in our community.”

Wallace continued on to say that in December the state turned its focus to hospitalizations rather than positivity rates and the county has consistently met the new metrics.

“Restaurateurs have been forced to keep their dining rooms closed for almost two months, after bending over backwards for months to abide by new public health laws,” said Assemblymember Wallace. “These small business-owners deserve an opportunity to reopen with the same public health measures that were effective during the summer and early fall. At the very least, they deserve an explanation from their elected leaders as to why these harmful restrictions must continue.”

Glen Park Tavern is in the orange zone. The restaurant's co-owner Ellie Grenauer said the restaurant is doing worse now than during the initial shutdown since customers have the option to go to restaurants that are open in other counties. She said since entering the orange zone, sales are down to a quarter of normal business, while during the initial shutdown they were down to half.

"I'd like to see us go back to yellow, unless he (Cuomo) can explain to us why we're not in yellow," Grenauer said.

On Tuesday, Cuomo presented the idea of whether rapid testing could be used to open restaurants in orange zones. A state official told 7 Eyewitness News Monday that Erie County remains an Orange Zone because the COVID positive rate and hospitalizations are increasing.