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Hochul: 'We are not anticipating' large-scale shutdown due to COVID-19 increase

The lieutenant governor said there are no talks about an economic shutdown as the Western New York region sees a spike in COVID-19 cases.

NEW YORK — Cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the Western New York region and in Erie County. On Thursday, the positivity rate for the region was 3.3%. 

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the positivity rate for Erie County was 4.9% with 241 new cases reported.

Many people have asked 2 On Your Side if this trend continues, could the Western New York region face another widespread economic shut down? 

We asked Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, and she said there are no talks of a shutdown.

"We are in a different situation right now," she said. "We don't foresee the need to have a wholesale closing of businesses across the state or the region because we can be much more targeted now. If we see a cluster in an area we can bring in, deploy extra testing there, contact tracing to isolate and shut it down."

The lieutenant governor, who heads the regions response team, was referring to the Cluster Action Initiative announced by Governor Cuomo last month. The initiative involves protocols to tackle a high density of cases in one area.

Governor Cuomo said once a cluster of cases is determined by health officials, it will be rated yellow, orange or red based on the infection rate and protocols needed to stop the spread.

Though the Erie County Commissioner of Health said Erie County has 10 zip codes with a high number of cases, those areas do not meet the metrics to be considered a cluster. 

Hochul said Western New York is seeing community spread through schools, colleges, family gatherings, youth sports, travel and nursing homes.

"What we are seeing here is more challenging because it's community spread," she said. "We have all of those sources that I mentioned that it's coming from, but not one place that you can tamp it down to. We don't think that, we hope not to get to, we are not anticipating getting to a large-scale shutting down of the economy or the businesses that we just reopened."

Hochul repeated what health leaders have been saying since the pandemic began, we still need to follow safety guidelines such as social distancing, mask-wearing and washing your hands.

"If we can get people back to complying with what they did so successfully through the spring and the summer, early fall," she said. "Get back to that sense of urgency and we can thwart any talks of having a shutdown."