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Poloncarz: Erie County's state of emergency to end Saturday

CDC says Erie County in "low" risk category for COVID transmission
Posted at 12:37 PM, Mar 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-04 18:14:46-05

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced that the county's state of emergency will officially end at noon on Saturday.

This comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Erie County and Western New York are in the "low" category for COVID transmission.

County Executive Poloncarz issued this statement:

“As March begins we are thankfully continuing to see reductions in case rates, especially from the extremely high rates that we saw just two months ago. Simultaneously, hospitalization rates for COVID-19 cases are dropping and the strain on our healthcare system is easing. These are good signs, but Erie County will continue to monitor these rates and other potential areas of concern with the virus and its variants; they are not going away completely.

Even while the virus’ grip has been easing on our community, Erie County personnel have remained deeply involved in responding to it and protecting residents from it. Workers from numerous departments, not just the Department of Health, have worked cooperatively and often out of job title to make our county response as effective as possible. These individuals have helped to coordinate and staff testing and vaccination clinics, acquire millions of pieces of PPE and then distribute them to the greater community, and other public health response measures. For several weeks now, as the virus has ebbed, these employees have been returning to their own jobs and job titles as part of the county’s return to normal working conditions, an essential component to lifting the state of emergency.

County-run testing and vaccination clinics will continue and we will continue to assist municipalities with PPE and other needs, although both of these efforts will be at levels greatly reduced from the past year. We will also continue assisting school districts as necessary. Protecting public health has been the foremost concern of my administration from the moment I swore my oath of office and that remains unchanged.

Currently there are no pandemic-related mandates still in effect in Erie County, the first time since before the pandemic began in March 2020. As such, the State of Emergency currently in effect locally will not be renewed and will expire on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

The expiration of the state of emergency does not signify the end of the potential threat posed to our community from COVID-19, but it the end of one chapter in our battle. There are still people in our community who are at risk for serious illness from the virus, and I ask all to respect their wishes if they are wearing a mask, or ask you to wear one to protect them. One small effort on your part may save their life.

Finally, I thank all members of our Erie County team for their tremendous efforts to protect the public during this difficult period, as well as the public for the sacrifices they made to ensure a safer Erie County for all. Your effort and sacrifices will never be forgotten.”

“I think it's long overdue,” declared Joe Lorigo, republican minority leader, Erie County Legislature. “Fortunately the state of emergency is coming to an end and we can get back to business as usual.”

Joe Lorigo, republican minority leader, Erie County Legislature.

Republican Minority Lorigo has been fighting for months to end the county’s state of emergency.

Lorigo and other county republican lawmakers fought hard against Poloncarz and his emergency powers that blocked them from making decisions on COVID issues.

“I think he was content to have that control. I think my colleagues across the aisle on the legislature were content to let him have that control,” remarked Lorigo. “If we were involved and had a seat at the table —12 heads are better than one.”

Poloncarz told 7 News Anchor Jeff Russo Tuesday things “internally” that needed to be resolved before the state of emergency could be lifted.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz with 7 News Anchor Jeff Russo.

“The state of emergency allowed us to move those around without having to change the job titles and things like that — so we are looking at moving people back to their original positions and figuring out what we need to do,” explained Poloncarz.

I asked Lorigo what will be different when the state of emergency comes to an end at noon Saturday.

“Whether or not there is a vast change in what happens, I still believe in the democratic process and that's why it was so important for me that the emergency ended,” Lorigo said.

I requested an interview with the county executive, but his spokesman says he was not available Friday.

Poloncarz also says Erie County will continue to have free COVID-19 testing and vaccine clinics, and will continue to distribute PPE to the public.