Chautauqua County Executive Talks COVID Delta Variant, School Reopening

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JAMESTOWN – As the number of cases linked to COVID-19’s Delta Variant rise nationally, Chautauqua County’s Executive is reassuring residents the strain has not been detected locally, and continuing his push to reopen schools this fall. 

County Executive PJ Wendel spoke about the new wave of Coronavirus activity during an interview with WNY News Now this week.

“I have been told that there are positive tests of the Delta Variant in Western New York, we have not seen that yet in Chautauqua County,” said Wendel. “We are keeping a close eye on things as the belief is it may already be here, however, it is unseen to be affecting residents as of right now.”

As a former educator, Wendel expressed his concerns about the effects that the new variant could have on fall school reopening plans.

“You listen to educators across the country, this year, the last 18 months, nearly two school years, these kids are so far behind their predecessors,” furthered Wendel.  “Education has definitely been set back over the last 18 months, I am a firm believer we need to get kids back.”

He says plans from the state regarding reopening plans need to come sooner than later, as many school sports are beginning as early as the middle of next month.

“They [the Governor’s Office and State,] need to get the guidance to the schools so they can prepare,” explained Wendel.  “This isn’t something that we can roll out a week or two before the general school year starts and have everyone on the same page.”

“Our teachers, superintendents, and administrators will do that [if forced to], we will make it happen, but, I think it is only fitting that they give us the guidance in a timely manner where they can make good sound decisions,” adds Wendel.

At this place in time during the pandemic, the County Executive also does not believe children should have to wear masks in school.

“I am a firm believer that children do not need to wear masks,” says Wendel.  “For children, 300 and some cases nationwide that ended up being fatal, so that my heartfelt sympathy goes out, but at the same time the question that many have asked is, what are the underlying medical conditions?… this has not affected or infected healthy children.”



  1. While I agree with Mr. Wendell in that kids need to go back to school, precautions must be taken. There are at least two Covid cases in children under the age of 6 who attended The Chautauqua Institute Day Camp last week. And because the Institute attracts people from all over the country, the spread of the virus is not as controlled. I think we all agree that we don’t want our precious littles to get anything much less Covid. And sadly, because these kids are so young, many of their ‘underlying health conditions’ have not yet been diagnosed. Let’s not find out they had a condition because they contracted Covid. I also believe that some attention needs to be paid to the age group of these kids parents, the 25-49 group where over half the new cases in many areas are cropping up in this unvaccinated age group. The fact that the virus hasn’t infected healthy children is little comfort to those parents and grandparents with unhealthy kids. Wearing a mask in the classroom this fall is a small price to pay and one very effective way to get this virus behind us. I hate seeing these kids in masks, but I would hate it more to see them sick.

  2. According to NBC news Ken Dilanian (from July 27, 2021), “New data suggests that fully vaccinated individuals are not just contracting COVID, but could be carrying higher levels of virus than previously understood, facilitating spread, my NBC News colleagues are reporting. New indoor masking guidance expected today.”

    Do you understand,… FULLY Vaccinated are not just contracting Covid, BUT could be carrying HIGHER levels of the virus than previously understood, facilitating spread

    Hence the new guidelines for masks even if vaccinated

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