By ALLISON RAPP

Buffalo – The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Erie County has surpassed 600, and the death toll has risen to 12 people, County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced on Wednesday in his routine live streamed town hall.

However, on the brighter side, Poloncarz noted that a slight slowdown seemed to be occurring in cases, going from doubling every two days to every three.

“We’re hopeful that that’s an example of social distancing working,” he said

In Erie County, 127 individuals have been hospitalized with confirmed cases with 55  cases in the ICU unit. Fifty-four were using some form of breathing assistance. Poloncarz reminded residents that while older populations are more vulnerable, Covid-19 can affect all ages.

“This is a non-discriminatory illness” Poloncarz said, “We want people to understand that no one is immune to this.” One individual in Erie County between the age range of one and four and three more between the ages of five and nine have tested positive for the virus, he added.

Poloncarz enacted three new emergency orders on Wednesday, the first requiring that any sick county worker remain at home.

“We cannot have county employees that are essential that are working on the front lines in any of the departments coming in that are sick and potentially putting at risk the other employees,” Poloncarz said.

The second order states that no member of the public will be allowed entry into county buildings if they appear sick. The last order gives supervisory staff the full power to send employees home if they are sick.

“We do not want to put at risk our staff in county government because some employee wants to come in and get extra hours,” he said.

 

Testing supplies and abilities within the county were still relatively limited, and continued to be reserved for those working on the front lines, those living in congregate and those who present critical symptoms.

“Even if I had 20,000 test kits, our lab can only perform a certain amount per day, then we have to send out the rest,” Poloncarz said. Plans were afoot for the coming peak in cases, including making space for additional hospital beds in locations like the Buffalo-Niagara Convention Center.

“We know that even if we were to reduce the spread in the community, we’re still gonna be over a thousand beds short,” Poloncarz said.

In the meantime, Poloncarz continued to encourage residents to self-monitor for symptoms, which include a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, a cough, or shortness of breath, and to call their health care provider with questions or concerns.