BELMONT — Reporting a record 65 new cases of COVID-19, Allegany County officials warned residents Saturday to prepare for possible color-zone designation by the state if positivity rates continue to rise.
The county's Department of Health reported that the total number of infections rose to 673 on Saturday, up from 608 on Friday when 27 new cases were reported. There were 779 residents in isolation or quarantine on Saturday, top more than 100 over the 677 reported Friday.
The county's seven-day rolling average — an important metric watched by the state — was 6.4% and the 14-day rolling average was 5%, according to the New York State Department of Health COVID-19 data dashboard.
In October, New York state began identifying regions in the state where COVID-19 infections were on the rise. The regions are identified by three colors, with restrictions enforced depending on the severity of the outbreak.
“We are asking the public to prepare for a possible color zone designation(s) if this positivity rate does continue on this upward path,” the Allegany Department of Health said in a statement Saturday night. “We are also asking the public to continue to take the necessary steps in order to reduce your risk of becoming infected by the novel coronavirus. These steps can be as simple as socially/physically distancing, frequent handwashing, wearing a mask, and limiting social gatherings or parties in order to protect their fellow neighbors, residents, friends, and family.
If you are not able to wash your hands, bring an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and use it when touching common surfaces.
"This information is not meant to alarm or panic anyone; it is simply a call to action for our community as we are all in this together," the health department stated. "As a county, we have driven the infection rate down before and we can do it again with your assistance and cooperation.”
• YELLOW ZONE restrictions in New York mean public and private schools must randomly test 20% of all people on campus weekly for the virus. Businesses can operate and restaurants can offer indoor and outdoor dining, with a four-person maximum per table.
Worship services are limited to 50% capacity and mass gatherings are limited to 25 people, either indoors or outdoors.
Erie County has yellow-zone focus areas, with an 8.17% positivity rate on Friday, and a 7.45% seven-day average.
• ORANGE ZONE restrictions include public and private schools can only open for in-person learning if all students and staff undergo COVID-19 testing, and then 25% of all people on campus are randomly tested weekly.
High-risk businesses, like gyms and nail salons, cannot open. Restaurants can offer outdoor dining, with a four-person maximum per table.
Worship services are limited to 33% capacity, with a maximum of 25 people and mass gatherings are limited to 10 people either indoors or outdoors.
Westchester County includes orange-zone areas, with a 12.06% positivity rate Friday and a seven-day rolling average of 9.62%
• RED ZONE restrictions in New York mean public and private schools can only open for in-person learning if all students and staff undergo COVID-19 testing, and then 25% of all people on campus are randomly tested weekly.
Non-essential businesses must close and restaurants may only provide take-out. Worship services are limited to 25% capacity, with a maximum of 10 people and mass gatherings are prohibited.
There were no red-zone areas in the state as of Saturday.
“A simple social gathering with one positive COVID-19 case can lead to several contacts and further spread of the virus outside of the gathering to schools, healthcare facilities, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, businesses, and other public domains,” the Allegany County Department of Health said in its Saturday press statement. “It is important to understand that the novel coronavirus depends on people to spread it and with our transient nature, the virus begins to spread rapidly and sometimes without the positive individuals knowledge.
“We are not asking the public to completely isolate themselves, just to conduct your business smartly and with understanding that the virus needs people to pass it along. When interacting with other people, maintain your 6-foot distance or talk with them virtually when possible.”
The department indicated that cases have continued to rise in county nursing homes, contributing to all but one of the county's 25 COVID-19 deaths. Many public schools in the county have been impacted by COVID-19 cases among teachers, staff or students.
“We are starting to see an uptick in cases related to our K-12 schools linked with parents or other household members being ill,” the department stated. “Although this is not the sole cause, if you are a parent of a K-12 student, it is imperative that if you are sick, keep your child home and get yourself tested. A parent or child that is ill or tests positive for COVID-19, has further implications for our school districts, both faculty and students. If you are officially quarantined or isolated, it is important to take it seriously in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Meanwhile, the department is offering free drive-up COVID-19 rapid testing Nov. 19 and Nov. 25, from 9 a.m. to noon each day. Residents must pre-register for Tuesday by noon Monday, by noon Nov. 18 for the Nov. 19 testing and by noon Nov. 24 for the Nov. 25 testing.
Call (585) 268-9250 to pre-register — leave a message and the health department will return the call. Registration is required.
People arriving for testing must not bring other individuals in their vehicles who are not getting tested — and no pets allowed. Residents arriving for testing must be prepared to return directly home and go into isolation or quarantine after a positive test.