OLEAN — A 24th Cattaraugus County resident died from COVID-19 Friday and another 34 tested positive for the coronavirus.
The death was a 93-year-old woman hospitalized with COVID-19 who died of respiratory failure despite aggressive treatment.
There were 18 cases attributed to community spread and 16 at St. Bonaventure University on Friday.
Friday’s daily positive rate in the county was 7.1%, the seven-day average was 5.3% and 14-day average was 3.7%.
There were 29 men with positive results and 24 women. Twenty-one were from the southeast part of the county, eight from the northwest, four from the northeast and one from the southwest.
The total number of county residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus is now 797. This week’s positive tests include 78 St. Bonaventure University students — many of whom were members of sports teams.
Western New York coronavirus numbers are rising at an alarming rate — just in time for Thanksgiving.
On Friday, Cattaraugus County Public Health Director Dr. Kevin D. Watkins underscored the recommendation of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to limit their Thanksgiving gathering this year to members of their immediate household.
“They really should consider sitting out this Thanksgiving and have dinner with only members of their household,” Watkins said. “The coronavirus is so contagious. There’s no way to make sure a guest (even a family member) does not have COVID-19.”
There were 439 individuals in the county in mandatory quarantine or isolation on Thursday. There were 237 active coronavirus cases being monitored by the Health Department on Thursday.
Students testing positive for COVID-19 will remain on campus until they have recovered. Those students who were direct contacts of others testing positive must isolate themselves for 14 days — even if they are going home for Thanksgiving, Watkins said.
The CDC recommendation is to exclude anyone not living in the same household from visiting during the Thanksgiving holiday, unless they have quarantined for 14 days, Watkins said. “You never know if someone has the virus,” he added.
The seven-day rolling average of positive tests shows a positivity rate of 4.8 percent. On Wednesday and Thursday the single-day rate was above 3%.
Ten straight days above 3.5% could land parts of the county in a yellow zone, according to Watkins. “If we don’t reduce this rate, parts of the county could end up in a yellow zone,” he said.
The yellow zone designation would mean restrictions in some areas of the county, including testing 20% of school students in the zone each week. Businesses would remain open, but restaurants would face new indoor restrictions. Houses of worship would face a reduced capacity, and all gatherings would be limited to 25 people.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already asked families across the state to limit Thanksgiving gatherings to 10 people.
Could the county Health Department provide testing for 20% of students in a yellow zone?
Watkins said this has already been discussed with school superintendents across the county. A yellow zone would unlikely include all 13 school districts, he said. “We’d send our mobile unit to do the tests,” he explained.
“We’ve got to continue to be vigilant,” Watkins said. “We need to hunker down again.” Limit travel outside your home, wear a mask, wash your hands often and keep a social distance to help limit the spread of the virus, he added.