Should residents of Allegany and Cattaraugus counties be concerned over reports that Buffalo-area residents are flocking to Southern Tier hunting camps to get away from the growing number of novel coronavirus cases there?
More than 400 Erie County residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and eight have died, compared to five and six coronavirus cases in Cattaraugus and Allegany counties respectively. The first death was reported Monday in Allegany County.
Clerks at one essential business in Cuba noticed an influx of out-of-towners coming in to make purchases. Several noted they were from the Buffalo area and staying at their hunting camps in the area.
“I would just hope that people who come down here would quarantine themselves for 14 days” in order to avoid spreading the virus here, an Allegany County Health Department spokesman said Monday.
“We can’t police it,” the spokesman said. “We can only hope they are considerate enough that if they are coming from a populated area where the virus is widespread that they quarantine themselves.”
The spokesman added, “We would ask them not to go out in public, just as we are asking our residents.”
Cattaraugus County Public Health Director Dr. Kevin Watkins said concern over Buffalo-area residents going to their Southern Tier hunting camps “has been on our radar.”
Watkins said that while there was no law prohibiting that kind of activity, there are still directives against mass gatherings.
“We have to be careful to follow the law,” Watkins said. “We can’t go running license plates. However, we really encourage those individuals from areas where COVD-19 is widespread that they remain in their community.”
Those already in camp should quarantine themselves instead of going out into the community shopping.
“If they self-report, we will make an assessment” as to their risk, Watkins said.
Also in Cattaraugus County last week, the Ellicottville Village Board went on Facebook, Instagram and its website to ask people not to come from New York City, where COVID-19 is increasing daily.
More than 1,000 New York City residents have died from the virus so far.
Ellicottville Mayor John Burrell also asked Airbnb and VBRO to remove Ellicottville rental properties from their online offerings during the coronavirus crisis. Local residents said they noticed families from out of the area arriving at rental homes — after the ski resorts shut down.
The village’s other objective was to use social media to push out the message that the village has scant resources and asking people to stay home during the COVID-19 crisis and slow the spread of the virus.
That part worked, as the village board’s Facebook message was shared hundreds of times, Burrell said.
The village that always has the welcome mat out has brought it in for safety.
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)