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Chautauqua County has many questions as schools, gyms begin reopening

Mike Desmond
Chautauaqua County leaders met Thursday evening to discuss latest state guidance on COVID-19.

Sometime in the near future, county health departments across New York State will be told by Albany what to do if a student, teacher or staff member in a school becomes infected with COVID-19. Until then, many questions remain.

With public schools across the country starting to open, local health departments are looking for guidance on what to do if things go very, very wrong. Thursday evening, Chautauqua County's Board of Health talked about COVID-19 issues, like the shift in a relatively small number of cases to younger people.

County Health and Human Services Director Christine Schuyler said her staff needs to know what the rules will be.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"We do have some guidance, as most of you are aware, from the State Health Department. Unfortunately, there are a lot of gaps in that guidance and a lot of questions and concerns are still out there," Schuyler said. "We had fully expected to receive clarifying guidance from the State Health Department early this week. Learned today that that is not coming. It's not ready. They hope to have it ready next week."

Schuyler said one issue of concern is the wavering about when a COVID-positive student can go back to class.

"The other clarification which is really a big deal right now is that State Health Department guidance is that children need to have a negative test result to return to school, if they were out," she said. "The clarifying guidance is supposed to negate that and go to that victim's safe return release to school."

Schuyler said there are also issues about inspections of fitness centers, which County Executive P.J. Wendel said can start reopening on Monday. The health director said she learned of Albany permission to reopen from a news conference and there has been no guidance on what to do, since health departments now have to inspect the gyms when they previously had no jurisdiction.

"We now don't resources or funding to do that," she said. "We have no idea how, exactly, the state wants that done."

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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