This illustration reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

OLEAN — Cattaraugus County posted its highest one-day number of positive COVID-19 tests in 21 months on Tuesday, along with two more deaths.

There were 162 new COVID-19 cases reported by the Cattaraugus County Health Department, bringing the total number of residents diagnosed with the coronavirus since March 2020 to 12,198.

Monday’s deaths included two women, ages 93 and 83. Their deaths bring to 214 the number of residents who have died from COVID-19. They developed respiratory failure and were unable to overcome their illnesses despite aggressive medical treatment.

Health department staff are now following 570 active cases of the coronavirus, 39 who are hospitalized and 469 in contact quarantine.

There have been 360 new cases since Jan. 1: 38 on Saturday, 39 on Sunday, 121 on Monday and 164 on Tuesday.

There were 1,563 cases reported in December 2021. The record is nearly 2,000 cases in November 2021. The year 2021 recorded 9,273 cases in the county. On Dec. 31, 2020, there had been 2,565 cases reported.

Dr. Kevin D. Watkins, the county’s public health director, said all indications are that this is the beginning of a holiday surge in COVID-19 cases.

While not confirmed by genomic sequencing, Watkins and other health officials are speculating that it is the omicron variant that is responsible for the quickly rising numbers of infected individuals. “That’s what we are probably seeing,” he said.

“Whole households are showing up positive,” Watkins said. “We’ve got Christmas gatherings and people traveling and a number of breakthrough cases.”

A small number of the new positive cases involve at-home self-test COVID-19 kits the health department distributed before Christmas, Watkins said. It is not a great number yet, but it is adding to the number of lab-tests results.

People were instructed to call the health department if they tested positive.

The only good thing about Omicron in comparison to the Delta variant is that “It comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb,” said Watkins in reference to what appears to be a milder form of the coronavirus that infects the nasal cavity rather than the lungs.

More cases often mean more hospitalizations and deaths.

The Omicron variant responds to a monoclonal antibody treatment with Sotrovimab, while monoclonal antibody treatments with Regeron works better against the Delta variant, Watkins said.

There is a setback, however, in that Sotrovimab is in short supply, Watkins added.

A new oral antiviral pill from Pfizer called Plaxloiz is expected to be available next week by prescription. It is designed to reduce the number of hospitalizations. Two other types of antiviral pills for COVID-19 are expected to be available soon as well.

“We’re trying to keep our heads above water,” Watkins said as the new cases are testing the county’s system of contact tracing.

The county also helps people in quarantine and isolation by doing their shopping, getting medicine and even dog food in order to keep them out of the community while they are infectious, Watkins said.

With Tuesday’s new cases, there have been 5,711 cases in the southeast part of the county, 2,496 cases in the southwest, 2,303 in the northeast and 1,688 in the northwest.

There have been 6,402 women diagnosed with COVID-19 and 5,796 men.

Fourteen of the new cases were breakthrough cases where the individuals had been vaccinated and 148 were unvaccinated.

Appointments for vaccinations can be made through the Cattaraugus County website by visiting: or call the COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at (716) 701-3777 if you need assistance.

To register for a free COVID-19 diagnostic test through the county health department, go online to:

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

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