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Cuomo: WNY on 'caution flag' after rising COVID-19 cases

File Photo/Governor's office

With a six-day surge in positive COVID-19 test results, and average cases over several days rising, Governor Andrew Cuomo said that the region has been "given a caution flag," to assess whether proper procedures are in place.

At the governor's  Monday briefing on the coronavirus, he also said that several high school sports will not have a season this year across New York State.

Cuomo says the five-day average of new daily cases for the western New York region is 63, which is up from 34 a week ago.  The region also saw an increase in the positive case rate above 1 percent for six days.

For the sake of COIVID pandemic planning, Western New York is defined as Erie, Niagara, Allegany, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties. 

"In Western New York, we have a caution flag . We are focusing on it and trying to understand exactly what is happening,"  Cuomo said in a briefing Monday.

He cited several factors for the surge in cases :

  • A cluster at an unidentified steel plant in Erie Couty and an unidentified food proessing plant in Chautauqua .
  • A spike in cases at two nursing homes in the region
  • More positive results coming from the pre-surgery testing ata hospitals.
  • Positive results from the testing of seasonal farm workers.

Cuomo did not outline specific changes in the procedures in Western New York, and his remarks sparked a statement from Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, outlining the measures that are being taken as a matter of course. 
" We have seen these situations since the start of this pandemic and work with employers to ensure the safety of their employees and facility. As has been standard practice since the beginning of the outbreak, the New York State Department of Health is investigating cases and clusters within nursing homes," the Poloncarz statement said.

" The last thing we want to see are closures of industries or in-school learning because of uncontrolled community transmission of COVID-19,"  Poloncarz said.

Cuomo also announced  there  won’t be any high school football games, or any wrestling matches or ice hockey contents this fall statewide. The governor issued new guidelines to phase in matches for other types of school sports.

Cuomo says sports that are considered “low risk” including tennis, soccer, field hockey, cross country track and swimming can resume as early as September 21st, and can compete with teams from other schools within their own region of the state.  But for now, he says , football, wrestling,  and ice hockey teams will be limited to practice meets, and even those will be delayed until October 19th.

Cuomo says he wants to be cautious.

“The Fall is a big question mark,” said Cuomo, who repeated concerns form health experts of a second wave of the virus returning when the weather cools. “

The governor issued the rules on a day when the test results from the previous day revealed an overall statewide  virus positivity of 0.66%. That number has remained at under 1% for a couple of weeks

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.
Dave Debo's journalism career runs the gamut from public radio to commercial radio, from digital projects to newspapers. With over 30 years of experience, he's produced national television news programs and has worked as both a daily and weekly print journalist and web editor.