Niagara County reopening recreational facilities, as COVID-19 death toll and cases rise
Niagara County is reopening many of its recreational facilities, with restrictions. That includes campgrounds, marinas and the county golf course.
However, county officials are warning citizens who use the facilities to follow all of the social distancing rules in this age of the coronavirus. Legislature Chair Becky Wydysh said this is within Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive orders, but there will be changes in the way the golf course operates, including having fewer tee times.
"We're offering fewer tee times per hour to keep some distance between the groups," she said. "Golf carts are not available at this time. You must walk the course. The pro shop remains closed. The greens cups have been partially blocked to reduce the need to retrieve the ball from the hole. The flag should not be touched. Ball washers and other common surfaces have been covered and are not available for use."
As the weather improves, there has been a great uproar about closed golf courses, campgrounds and marinas, particularly when Albany for a while allowed private golf courses to open but not public courses.
This comes as the county death toll has risen and the number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 has risen again. The county lists 16 dead, with the state health department listing dead residents in county nursing homes.
The county received 100 test kits for the virus and the decision was to use the kits to test workers in nursing homes, where officials believe patient infections are probably coming from staff.
"We do know that the residents have not been leaving the facilities. There's been no visitors allowed for 5-6 weeks. So, we know it's coming from workers," said Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton. "We want to be able to ensure that workers who have symptoms are tested, so that if they turn out to be positive, we can stop that transmission right at its source. It's an important tool."
Across the country, there are major infected totals among workers in nursing homes. Staff are often not equipped with the latest in personal protective equipment and many work in more than one nursing home at a time.
Stapleton said there also are good signs in the county's health numbers.
"This is an important number: 133 people have recovered so far," he said. "That's an important number because it shows people they can be positive for COVID. They can have the symptoms or be asymptomatic. But that they eventually recover from the disease and that's an important thing for people to understand and those numbers are increasing every single day. So we think it's important for people to realize there is light at the end of that tunnel."
Stapleton said social distancing is working. He said COVID-19 cases remain concentrated in the densest parts of the county, particularly Niagara Falls and Wheatfield. Officials said 130 people were in isolation as of Monday aternoon, 18 of them in hospital isolation.