Three more Cattaraugus County residents died Wednesday from COVID-19, increasing the death toll from the coronavirus since April 23 to 64 people.
The deceased include a 97-year-old man, an 84-year-old woman and a 40-year-old woman. They developed respiratory failure and were unable to overcome their illness despite aggressive medical treatment.
Dr. Kevin D. Watkins, Cattaraugus County’s public health director, extended condolences to their families and to the community.
Also, another 58 residents were notified that they tested positive for COVID-19. There have now been 3,181 people in the county who have tested positive for COVID-19 since the first confirmed case last March.
Forty-five individuals are hospitalized with COVID-19. There are 513 active cases being followed by health department staff, along with 675 in contact quarantine and 50 in travelers quarantine.
The southeast part of the county, which has been hardest hit by both cases and deaths from COVID-19, reported 38 new cases on Wednesday for a total of 1,876, 59% of the total number of cases in the county.
In the northwest part of the county there were three new cases for a total of 330, the northeast section had six new cases for 500 and the southwest also had six new cases for 475.
Of the total, 54.2% or 1,724 of the canvases have been women and 1,457 canvases involved men.
The daily positivity rate was 7.3%, the seven-day rolling average is 8.3% and the 14-day average is 8.8%, according to Watkins.
The public health director remains frustrated by the amount of COVID-19 vaccine that is available to county residents even as the list of those who are eligible continues to grow.
“Our clinic is going full blast,” Watkins said Wednesday. “There are no appointments available at this point, based on the number of doses allotted to us. As soon as we open new slots, they are filled almost immediately. We are now taking names for a waiting list to do before the general public.”
Watkins said that the week of Jan. 25, the health department will open up another week of slots. “We want to make sure of how much vaccine we will be allotted. The state continues to be hampered by the federal government on how many doses the state will receive. The vaccine remains very limited.”
Watkins said he was heartened to hear the federal government will begin to ship vaccine that it had held back to make sure people got a booster dose of vaccine three or four weeks after their first shot.
However, he hasn’t seen that translate into more doses of vaccine available for rural counties like Cattaraugus.
Five additional sites are expected to be administering the vaccine in the county besides the Jamestown Community College site in Olean and Olean General. None of the sites have scheduled any appointments yet because of the small allocation of the vaccine to the county, Watkins explained. Those new sites include three pharmacies.
“We can easily do 1,000 or more a week, but we have limited allotments,” he said. “Our last allotment was 300 doses,” which was reallocated from a facility that had more vaccine than the number of people they needed to vaccinate. The county received 360 doses from another provider in another reallocation.
“Folks are interested in getting the vaccine and we don’t want that interest to wane,” Watkins said. “We want to get the vaccine in the arms of people that need it.”
He said, “If we could get the resources (vaccine), we would find a way to meet the demand of the community.” Many people have volunteered to assist in the vaccination program, he added. “We are hampered by the limited amount of vaccine. The demand is much higher than what is available. Rural areas get smaller allocations. The Western New York HUB tries to assist us.”
Watkins said he requested another 500 doses for next week but “they cannot make that promise.” Therefore, plans for a second county vaccination clinic in the northern part of the county was put on hold.
Watkins said the county vaccinated about 750 people over the past week and hopes to do about that many again next week at the JCC clinic in Olean. The vaccine is administered by appointment only.
“We’re really going to have to open up the cupboard if we’re going to get our people vaccinated,” Watkins said. “The distribution is unfair and it’s a slow process. We’re just hoping the Trump Administration releases more of the vaccine,” Watkins said.
“It appears New York has not received an increase in its allotment of 300,000 doses a week,” he said. “At this rate, it’s going to take months to vaccinate priority groups 1-A and 1-B.”