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1,000 test results from Quest push Erie County COVID-19 cases past 2,500

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Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz provides his daily COVID-19 briefing Wednesday.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Wednesday the county health department has received 1,000 test results from Quest Diagnostics going back to last week, with 150 of them showing a positive result. Those resultss pushed the county's total number of positive cases past 2,500.

Poloncarz said health department workers are looking at the data and calling people to tell them of the result. One troubling area is discharges from hospitals.

"We have seen over the last five days there have been more admissions or conversions to COVID-19 patients in hospital than discharges, not a great sign," he said. "But what we've also heard - I talked with a number of the hospital executives yesterday and today - was many of these new cases are coming from group home settings. So it's not necessarily coming from the general population."

Poloncarz said his staff is talking to the state health department to figure out what group homes are involved and if there are problems. Across the country, in Erie County and across Western New York, deaths in nursing homes have been mounting.

New data from the county health department also found 51% of the dead in the pandemic were ages 80 or over. The county executive said the virus is ravaging "the Greatest Generation."

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With the growing ranks of first responders hit with the virus, the county is changing the rules on 911 calls. with a goal of protecting them better.

"Callers may be instructed to meet officers outside, if they have the ability to do so. Callers may be screened for COVID-19 symptoms while they are on the phone call before an officer or other person arrives. And you need to listen to the instructions from the dispatcher, the call taker, because they are going to provide accurate information to police, fire, EMT and they need to know your current situation," he said.

While crime is down in the county during the long quarantine, there are continuing problem areas including domestic violence calls, which Poloncarz said have increased.

He said one sign of some normalcy returning to life is county golf courses opening.

"I don't know anybody who wanted to be out golfing today, considering how cold it is and it was snowing," he said. "Erie County Department of Parks is looking at opening our golf courses, if we follow proper social distancing guidelines, hopefully by May 1."

Even so, Poloncarz said it will be a very different experience, with no powered golf carts and no cash, only credit cards, being paid to play a round. Social distancing rules will still apply on the tees, fairways and greens.

Mayor Byron Brown said Buffalo will not be opening city courses any time soon.

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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