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Another harsh warning to wear a mask, as college COVID-19 cases on the rise

More harsh warnings to students, as hundreds of COVID-19 cases close down a SUNY campus for the semester.

Western New York has the highest rate of COVID-19 in the state and the case count is rapidly rising, as college students are becoming infected during house parties across the region. The governor said Thursday that he will force some public colleges into distance learning if the virus isn't controlled, as he did with SUNY Oneonta.

However, it is not just college students breaking the rules, said erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

"College students are being tested and are being tested positive. But seniors are being tested positive. Children are being tested positive. Regular average-age adults are being testing positive. People who received their letter from AARP because they turned 50 not long ago are," he said.

Poloncarz said Pittsburgh and then the entire State of Pennsylvania recently had to deal with rapid rises in case count.

"They reclosed their bars. They shut down the indoor dining in the restaurants. They did other things, shutting down other businesses that had reopened after being closed. And they did it because they were seeing this big spike. It worked. It helped reduce their cases," Poloncarz said. "I don't want to see that here. It would be devastating to a lot of businesses that are hanging on the edge."

Poloncarz also continued his attacks on those sniping at him on social media and attacking the possibility of a reclosing in Western New York. He said there are people out there who are actively resisting mask rules.

"Retail establishment has a sign: 'No Mask,' same thing as like, 'No Shirt. No Shoes. No Service.' They should treat it the same way," he said. "You do not get the right to put other people at risk just because you don't want to wear a mask. And I do know - because we have gotten those cases from our contact tracers - of individuals who are like, 'I'm never wearing a mask' and then they tested positive because they got sick."

Poloncarz saids the network of contact tracers has also found people who won't follow the rules because they believe the virus is a hoax, until they become ill.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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