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Niagara County public health director on COVID-19: The numbers are not going in the right direction

There are currently 342 active COVID-19 cases in the county; 333 are isolating at home and nine are in the hospital.

LOCKPORT, N.Y. — The Niagara County Department of Health says there are 86 new cases of COVID-19 in the county.

There are currently 342 active COVID-19 cases in Niagara County; 333 are isolating at home and nine are in the hospital.

A 97 year-old woman, living in a nursing home with underlying health conditions has died of a COVID-19 related illness. 

Of the 2,531 positive cases to date, 2,096 have recovered. 

“The numbers are definitely not going in the direction we want," said Niagara County Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton. "We are working with schools and the state to try and make sure we can adjust to these numbers as quickly as possible.”

Stapleton said Niagara County is in need of more testing supplies and hopes the New York State Department of Health can help fill that need.

“We continue to ask for testing supplies, testing kits, rapid testing machines, we are getting some, but not anywhere near what we have been requesting,” he said.

There have been announcements of exposure to the virus in Niagara County, including students at Lewiston-Porter high school and the Niagara County Legislature.

The Lewiston-Porter Central School District is going to full remote learning for all high school students after an unknown number of students attended a Halloween party.

The school district posted a memo and sent a letter to all high school parents on Monday stating, "Unfortunately, the scope and impact of that COVID positive case from last week has expanded significantly. It appears the genesis of the issue is centered on a large Halloween party held on the evening of Saturday, October 31. We are now up to 18 students in quarantine and 1 student in isolation as a result of this gathering. There are rumors that as many as 50 or more students may have attended this party."

As a result of this, all high school students in their hybrid model of learning will be learning virtually through Monday, November 16 in hopes that the shutdown will allow for further contact tracing.

Niagara County Legislature Chairman Becky Wydysh announced Monday evening that the Niagara County Legislature canceled its committee meetings on Monday, due to possible exposure to COVID-19.

Wydysh says several members of the Niagara County Legislature's majority caucus, including Wydysh, were told Monday afternoon that were possibly exposed to the virus and must quarantine in result. Wydysh says even though they were following safety guidelines, they still must quarantine since they were in the same room for over an hour with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

And a COVID-19 outbreak at Niagara University has prompted the school to shift to remote learning on Thursday for the remainder of the semester.

This comes after the university had 47 people test positive for COVID-19 on Friday and are now in isolation. More than 160 people are in quarantine after they were considered to be in close contact with people who tested positive.

Niagara University released this statement about the change:

Niagara University has continued to monitor the return of COVID-19 tests over recent days and found that, while the increase has not been as significant as it was at the end of last week, we continue to have positive cases. We are also closely monitoring the pandemic news in Erie County, the WNY region, and Greater Toronto Area.

As we track the news in the region and the uptick of cases on campus, we have made the decision to proactively shift to remote instruction for the remainder of the semester, beginning on Thursday, Nov. 12. This has been a demanding semester for our students, and we know that moving to remote instruction for the last few days of our face-to-face classes will also allow them to get home for Thanksgiving.

We remain confident in our plans, which included a shift in the academic calendar, a comprehensive program of surveillance testing, physical distancing, cleaning and sanitizing, and many other safety measures, however, we are not immune to what is happening throughout the U.S, Erie County, and the Greater Toronto Area, and it is critical to be proactive and adapt to these factors, which continue to impact our campus.

As we shift to remote instruction for the remainder of the semester, we will make every accommodation to assist students to persist through the semester. In addition we have added COVID testing days, and we will strongly encourage students to be tested before they leave campus. Based on the result, we will assist students with accommodations, if needed.