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Doctor warns rural counties not immune to outbreaks

Chautauqua County

Some have raised questions on the practicality of grouping southern counties in with Erie County and Western New York, as opposed to the Southern Tier in re-opening plans.


Chautauqua County Executive P.J. Wendel said the regional efforts toward re-opening have been coordinated, but also wanted state leaders to realize the situation in Erie County is not the same as in his. 

“We feel confident that we are getting ever closer. Erie County’s numbers are different than ours,” said Wendel. “So we will continue to have our numbers separate, and be able to present those.” 

Wendel pointed towards Erie County’s resuming of elective surgeries as a good sign for the region, and also new partnerships with private medical labs. 

“We don’t know when it’s going to be. We’re optimistic and we hope the data we are able to present will show the governor we will be able to re-open, and do this in a safe and responsible manner,” Wendel said.

County Physician Robert Berke noted population density and low confirmed COVID cases doesn’t make Chautauqua immune from what is occurring elsewhere. 

“We’re not insulated from how many hundred thousand people passing through here in the next couple of months,” warned Dr. Berke. “Saratoga Springs, Finger Lakes, everywhere. We’re going to be inundated with people from elsewhere which are hot spots. We can’t just put a border around this place and say because we have low prevalence we can open up and everything’s going to be fine.”

The current numbers as of May 8 in Chautauqua stand at 42 confirmed cases, 32 recoveries, and four deaths.


Ryan Zunner joined WBFO in the summer of 2018 as an intern, before working his way up to reporter the following summer.
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