Still no COVID-19 cases in Cattaraugus County

Cattaraugus County lawmakers attending the Public Works Committee meeting in the large committee room at the County Center in Little Valley Wednesday ignored social distancing recommendations instead of meeting in the adjacent James J. Snyder Legislative Chambers, which is much larger.

LITTLE VALLEY — Cattaraugus County had not recorded any COVID-19 cases as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, but a visitor to HoliMont in Ellicottville earlier this month has since tested positive for the coronavirus.

The visitor, an Essex County woman who attended a youth skiing competition between March 4-8, got a positive test result on Sunday, according to Cattaraugus County Public Health Director Dr. Kevin Watkins.

The woman didn’t know how she could have been exposed, he said. She began showing symptoms after she returned home with her husband and daughter, Watkins said. The Cattaraugus County Health Department was contacted Tuesday as part of the contact tracking by Essex County health officials.

County residents currently have a low to no risk of contracting the infection from exposure to this woman, Watkins told the Olean Times Herald on Wednesday.

Given the incubation period of five days and symptoms in 10 days from exposure, it is unlikely anyone would still become ill after that contact, Watkins said. The family did attend a banquet at the event.

The patient said she did not eat out at any restaurants and the family stayed at a condo most of the time when they weren’t attending outdoor events. She went into one downtown Ellicottville store, Watkins said.

Event sponsors have begun to notify people who attended the event to say if they have symptoms to contact their medical provider.

“We don’t feel there was any widespread contamination from this individual,” Watkins said. “We still have no positive cases here.”

Watkins said there were 38 county residents in mandatory quarantine and 10 in a precautionary quarantine. Laboratory tests are pending for 17 individuals, and 11 others have tested negative.

The public health director said county health officials are concerned with COVID-19 cases in surrounding Allegany, Wyoming and Erie counties.

Also on Wednesday, 27 Cattaraugus County Public Works Department employees were pressed into service delivering hundreds of Meals of Wheels to elderly residents throughout the county.

Since most all Meals on Wheels delivery volunteers are age 60 and over, the county was directed to temporarily discontinue using them because of the risk to their health.

Public Works Commissioner Cathy Ellis said the employes used DPW pickups and vans to deliver the meals. They are expected to continue for the near future, but alternate plans are being discussed to use other county employees if the DPW crews were needed in an emergency.

Cathy Mackay, director of the Department of the Aging, which oversees the Meals on Wheels program, said many of the volunteers wanted to continue and were disappointed they could not.

“It’s very hard for people with such a big heart” not to participate, especially when more people are depending on the daily home delivery of meals, Mackay said.

She said one woman called her to say she was concerned to see a big county DPW pickup truck in her driveway Wednesday at noon. “She went out to ask if they were going to work on the road. The DPW driver said ‘No. I’m delivering your meals.’”

On Tuesday, the 12 Cattaraugus County senior dining sites were closed due to COVID-19 concerns. The elderly and those with compromised immune systems are at greatest risk.

Hundreds more meals were prepared at the county Nursing Home in Machias and distributed from the dining sites to seniors homes.

“We weren’t just delivering to regular Meals on Wheels people, but the ones who had been attending the dining sites and others who need help,” Mackay said.

“One of every four county residents is over age 60, Mackay said. “If they’ve been listening to their doctors’ orders and watching the news, they are trying to stay out of the general public. They are most susceptible.”

Mackay said seniors have been calling the Department of Aging offices with requests for some paper products and other items in order to stay at home.

“One man who did drive to the store was upset when they didn’t have what he went for,” Mackay added.

The Department of Aging will continue to respond to seniors who call their Olean office at (716) 373-8032. “We just added another line dedicated to COVID-19,” Mackay said.

The county’s Emergency Operations Center is expected to open today in the basement of the County Center.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)