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When can Western New York reopen? It all depends on the data

According to numbers from Erie County, Western New York is doing well on hospital capacity, but work still remains on testing, hospitalizations and contact tracing.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — When it comes to reopening in New York, just because hospitalizations are dropping in one region does not mean the entire state can reopen together.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says while the county is trending in the right direction in some areas, there are still challenges ahead.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Pause Order expires May 15. That's next Friday, and a lot of us are looking at the date and wondering can we start to reopen?

It all depends on seven key indicators. 

The governor has been working off of parameters set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

They involve falling hospitalizations and falling virus-related hospital deaths, as well as contact tracing, so people can identify those who may have come into contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus.

Poloncarz says that the county needs about 250 more contact tracers and that staff from the Department of Social Services and Department of Senior Services are being trained to do contact tracing. 

"I have authorized our department personnel to work with various departments to increase contact tracers to meet New York state standards with current employees so we don't have to bring people in as new hires we may bring back some people who are currently at home," Poloncarz said. 

Poloncarz says Erie County should be able to meet testing standards in the next few weeks. And that more people are needed to actually be tested. That's why the county is looking to test people who not only are symptomatic, but those who are not showing Covid symptoms.

If you're interested in getting a test, you should call the hotline at 716-858-2929 to set up an appointment.

In terms of hospitalizations, there are some new numbers, Poloncarz says as of Monday, there were 222 new hospitalizations. That is down from 240, two days prior, and hospitalizations have been trending downward. 

Will the county reopen next week?

"It's highly doubtful that we'll meet May 15. It's possible. Remember, they're looking at two-week rolling averages, so if the next -- what day is it the sixth? -- if the next nine days is that much better in regards to these hospitalizations and contraction numbers, then we'd have a shot," Poloncarz said. He thinks that reopening by June 1 is more realistic.

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