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Officials explain "discrepancies" in Niagara County COVID numbers

Screen capture, Lockport Community Television

Niagara County officials reported no new Coronavirus deaths Tuesday. But during a daily television update, they did admit there are discrepancies in numbers, including nursing home fatalities as reported by the state.

Eleven new positive tests were reported by Legislature Chair Becky Wydysh during her routine update on Lockport Community Television. The total of known cases, adding the new ones, was raised to 216. Among the known patients, 122 people were in isolation, 100 at home and the rest in hospital. Eighty-nine people infected with COVID-19 in Niagara County have since recovered.

Wydysh then spent a few moments explaining what she admits are "discrepancies" in the numbers, specifically with fatalities. Her daily reports, she stated, were based on verified lab results.

"That's what we base our isolation numbers, our recovery numbers and our death numbers on," she said "We've said many times that, of course, there will be individuals who are positive with COVID-19 that we will just never know about, because they won't ever be tested. We expect those numbers are much higher than we're actually reporting."

According to the New York State Health Department, 925 people in Niagara County have been tested to date.

But there is also confusion as to the differences between the county's reported number of fatalities and the numbers reported by New York State. According to information released Monday about Coronavirus infections in nursing homes and assisted living homes, there were six reported fatalities at such facilities in Niagara County.

Wydysh explained that when the Niagara County Health Department is notified about positive test results stemming from nursing homes and assisted living facilities, they then notify the New York State Department of Health, which then takes charge of those cases. The numbers reported in the daily broadcasts do not include the results coming from nursing homes.

"Today, there were numbers posted by the state that included deaths in these facilities from COVID-19 in Niagara County and they were reporting six deaths here in facilities. We have not been notified by the state of those cases," Wydysh said. "Of the five deaths that we have reported to you, only one of those is known by us to be in one of those facilities.

"It obviously doesn't add up. Today, Governor Cuomo also acknowledged this discrepancy in the numbers. And we are going to continue to report in the way that we have, to be consistent and accurate, to the best of our knowledge. We certainly want to be transparent. We want you to have the correct information and be aware of the additional reports that we'll continue to update you on. What we're hoping is the state is able to figure out a way to report those situations to us in an accurate way, so that we can keep these discrepancies out of the picture and give you a true and accurate number here in Niagara County."

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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