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MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County officials have confirmed an additional two cases of COVID-19 in the county during their weekly press conference Friday afternoon.
Both new cases are females; one in their 60’s and the other in their 70’s. That brings the total number of positive cases to 46 with 4 fatalities and 33 recovered while an additional 149 remain under quarantine or isolation.
Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel is working with Cattaraugus and Allegany County officials to ask Governor Cuomo to consider the western Southern Tier as a “sub-region”; noting that Chautauqua County meets all of the requirements for Phase I of the reopening plan.
“If we look at Chautauqua County’s metrics, our scorecard shows that we are meeting all seven metrics and we are prepared and ready to responsibly reopen to Phase I if we were allowed to do so,” said Wendel.
“Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua Counties have much more in common with the Southern Tier Region, which opened Phase I today, then we do with urban centers within the Western New York Region…our three counties have similar population densities and COVID-19 statistics.”
Dr. Robert Burke also echoed Executive Wendel’s argument that low-risk areas are ready to “take the next next step” and begin a slow and steady reopening.
Executive Wendel plans to continue the push for Albany to analyze data more closer in his meeting with other state officials on the reopening committee.
Chautauqua County Office of Emergency Services Director John Griffith said they have worked hard through this pandemic to ensure first responders and healthcare workers have proper and sufficient PPE’s.
“In coordination with the Chautauqua County Health Department, we have also provided logistical support for COVID-19 testing in Chautauqua County and trained EMS paramedics have been performing swab testing to provide the test numbers required by New York State” said Griffith.
Chautauqua County Health Director Christine Schuyler said the low rates of disease in these three counties demonstrates Executive Wendel’s strategies with a low population density helping to keep the spread of COVID-19 low.
However, Schuyler did state that she expects to see more cases down the road as the county reopens.
“Intense community mitigation strategies were enacted not to eradicate the virus, but to slow the spread of this disease.” said Schuyler.
Executive Wendel said the extension of the State of Emergency declaration for Chautauqua County does not inhibit the county’s ability to reopen should officials be given the go-ahead from Albany. The extension was ordered to insure FEMA disaster assistance.
“(Chautauqua) County is facing enormous fiscal impacts from the pandemic and we must do everything in our power to maximize reimbursements” said Wendel.
Executive Wendel also announced that the pandemic will have a substantial reduction on the County’s budgeted sales tax revenue, occupancy tax revenues, and State Aid.
“In response, and in consultation with the County Legislature’s leadership, I have taken remedial actions over the past month to offset the expected revenue shortfalls arising from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Wendel.
The proposed amendment resolution will offset over $4 million in expected revenue shortfalls for the county. Other remedial actions that have been taken include:
- Instituting a hiring freeze for other than essential positions in government
- Eliminated the use of overtime unless related to the COVID-19 response
- Suspended the purchase of new equipment or leases, unless necessary to keep staff working or to respond to COVID-19
- Requiring that all purchases over $5,000 be approved by the Budget Director, and that department heads reduce purchases under $5,000 to the extent possible
- Begin tracking of all incremental expenditures related to COVID-19 for potential reimbursement from FEMA
- Elimination of all unnecessary government travel, including commitments for future discretionary travel, such as conferences
- Direction of department heads to delay any non-essential spending and contracts for services, and to carefully monitor Federal and State funded programs for possible aid reductions.
Christine Schuyler said the first pediatric Coronavirus case in the county, which was confirmed on Tuesday, May 12, is asymptotic and the child is not hospitalized and is and doing well.
- Negotiated a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with CSEA Local 6300 dated today, May 15, 2020, to implement voluntary furloughs to achieve necessary reductions in budgeted expenses as an alternative to layoffs. When the savings from the furloughs are quantified, additional 2020 budget amendments will be presented reflecting the reduction in personnel expenses.
Schuyler also said schools will need to take measures to keep children from congregating to a minimum should schools be allowed to reopen for next school year in the fall, in addition to more through cleaning.
Dr. Burke believes trying to prevent younger children from congregating will be challenging. He said school districts and country officials will need to find creative ways to implement social distancing measures in schools.