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.”