Chautauqua County Faces Hospital Bed Shortage Amid COVID-19 Surge

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CHAUTAUQUA – As the winter COVID-19 surge continues to rage, Chautauqua county is bracing for the impact it will have on our hospitals. 

Already, the number of cases has led to a halt of contact tracing in the county, which Christine Schuyler, the Chautauqua County Public Health Director says is now an ineffective tool given the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant.

“The volume has exceeded our capacity, as well as the capacity of the New York State contact tracing team,” says Schuyler. “So we are no longer able to quickly and efficiently notify people when we get a report of a positive COVID-19 test.”

Instead, the Health Director says that following the CDC’s isolation guidelines is the best path to keeping the virus in check.

She continues that sharing testing data helps virologists understand how quickly the virus spreads and causes symptoms, which is key in maintaining space in our hospitals.

“What we’ve seen with the Omicron, it is super contagious. Fortunately, we are seeing some less severity of illness with the Omicron variant,” explains Schuyler. “But we’re not seeing a decreased stress on our hospital systems. So while there is less severity in some people, there’s just so much of it. So many people are sick.”

Additionally, she reminds residents that a majority of hospitalized patients are unvaccinated, and that these individuals are at most risk of long-term health effects.

According to state data, there are currently only ten available hospital beds in the county for COVID patients. Schuyler added that Brooks Hospital even had to divert patients earlier in the week, which was the first time this has happened locally since the pandemic began.

Post-holiday data is expected to be released today, leading the Health Department to brace for another spike in cases.

Free COVID-19 testing is available in Chautauqua County everyday from noon to 5 p.m. at the South County Office Building on Fourth Street in Jamestown and on Tuesdays and Thursdays at JCC North Campus on Rt 60 in Dunkirk.

“There are more opportunities now for people to get tested, and we’re hoping that that will help us to decrease the spread and keep our hospitals open and people moving,” says Schuyler.

The county Health Department urges residents to follow the state mask mandate, saying that the double-layer cloth masks will do the job other than the five days after isolation.


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