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Nine more cases confirmed, though Niagara County leaders suggest an undercount

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Niagara County officials reported nine new confirmed cases of COVID-19 during a Wednesday afternoon briefing but stressed that they expect the county's overall tally would be higher if they could conduct more testing.

The nine latest cases raised Niagara County's total known positive tests to 65 as of Wednesday afternoon. Among the known cases, 15 patients were hospitalized while the other 39 were recovering at home. Eleven other patients have fully recovered, Niagara County Legislature Chair Rebecca Wydysh reported, while 84 people were self-quarantined and 92 others had completed quarantines.

She followed up her daily numbers by stating they'd be higher if the county were able to conduct more tests.

"Some of you might have heard from a friend or a relative or a neighbor who had symptoms, and their doctors told them to stay at home and to self isolate and treat their symptoms," Wydysh said. "Just like the flu or the common cold, they'll ride it out. They'll get better. That's the best-case scenario. Those folks will not be included in our positive count numbers because they were not tested."

But the county is also struggling to acquire as many testing kits and personal protective equipment as it can. Jonathan Schultz, the county's director of emergency services, said the supplies they have received from New York State were almost immediately distributed to medical professionals and first responders. The county is, in the meantime, searching for additional sources.

"We have been actually been reaching out now and procuring as much supplies as we can," he said. "We do have large orders for N95 masks, which probably won't be in for two to three weeks. We have placed orders for isolation masks as well and gloves and gowns and things, and face shields, to try to get a surplus going to help meet the needs of the community, because currently they're unfortunately just not being met."

Schultz noted the high level of stress under which medical professionals and first responders are working and offered equally high praise.

In the meantime, he also offered remarks hinting that while he and his staff continue to monitor developments in the pandemic, he is also eyeing what is feared to be another crisis looming for parts of the county. That would be the anticipated return of flood waters along parts of the Lake Ontario shoreline.

"Just today we're about (zero) point six inches higher than we were last year at the same time.," he said. "So we're already into the motions of setting up bringing sandbags and water bladders and pumps, so we're ready to go in the next two to three months, when the water levels come back up to where they were, possibly, like last year."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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