Erie County says no COVID-19 cases, but won’t reveal quarantine numbers

No one tested positive in Erie County
Posted at 6:30 PM, Mar 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-04 18:30:32-05

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — “We currently do not have any cases of COVID-19 here in Erie County,” declared Dr. Gale Burstein, Commissioner, Erie County Health Department.

The Erie County Health Commissioner reassuring the public that no one has tested positive for COVID-19 also known as the Coronavirus.

Dr. Gale Burstein, Commissioner, Erie County Health Department & Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz speak at a press conference in March 2020.

“We don't have any evidence that those individuals are infected, especially now that we test results that are negative on some of them,” remarked Burstein.

Two Western New York families, who recently returned home from Italy, are in quarantine. But Erie County officials will not say how many are quarantined.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said there were 12-people from Buffalo, with six showing symptoms.

But Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says the governor "violated the law" by releasing those numbers.

“The governor announced that. If you follow the CDC and the state, we're not supposed to say that, but the governor announced it,” Poloncarz told reporters.

“If we have tests that are done and those tests are negative, there's nothing that the public needs to know to protect themselves. It's just business as usual,” Burstein stated.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz & Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein.

7 Eyewitness News reached out to the Governor’s press office for a response. Hours after the county leaders refused to give out the quarantine numbers, we received a statement.

"State and county health departments in New York and around the country have been routinely providing this information. It’s our obligation during a public health epidemic to keep the public informed. Faith in government competence in is paramount in these situations and misinformation undermines that. The County Executive should correct the record immediately,” wrote Rich Azzopardi, Senior Advisor to the Governor.

Poloncarz then sent out a Tweet back tracking on his earlier statement. He tweeted that he apologizes for saying it was illegal, however, he said he believes it was “inappropriate” to reveal a town or location.

Also at the Wednesday briefing, the county announced that if someone is considered a public health threat, the county can legally enforce your quarantine.

“I’m hopeful that we will never get to a situation, where we have to force a quarantine on an individual and have a guard station outside a house to ensure that person is not a potential risk to the community, but by God, if we have to, we will,” said Poloncarz.

Erie County will soon have the ability to test for COVID-19 in its own public health lab, instead of sending specimens to Albany. The county has received approval and is waiting for materials to arrive.

“We’ll be able to do that right here and have the same day turnaround time for people who meet the criteria for testing,” Burstein noted.

If you have traveled to China, Italy, Iran or South Korea, you should contact the health department, 716-858-7697. You will be required to self-isolate for 14 days even if you are healthy.

The county executive is recommending you put off a planned overseas trip.

“If you have a trip planned to go to Italy, I would cancel it, postpone it. You have to be quarantined for 14 days, 14 days when you come back, regardless whether your healthy or note,” Poloncarz and Burstein explained.