Cattaraugus County’s COVID-19 test results still all negative

Nearly 60 negative COVID-19 test results have come back for Cattaraugus County residents — including a group home healthcare worker who had been under mandatory quarantine.

Dr. Kevin Watkins, Cattaraugus County public health director, said Monday that, other than no confirmed novel coronavirus cases and the 58 negative test results that have been returned, little changed over the weekend.

The results of 16 other tests are pending.

“It’s about the same,” Watkins said. “We continue to get a number of negative results coming in quite rapidly.”

Sixty-six individuals were under quarantine at noon on Monday. Of those people, 46 were under mandatory quarantine and 20 were under precautionary quarantine.

“We are getting requests from medical providers to conduct COVID-19 tests,” Watkins said. “Just because we don’t have any positive cases doesn’t mean that the virus is not in our community.”

More than half of the initial COVID-19 test kits received by the county and Olean General Hospital have already been used. County health and emergency services officials continue to press for more testing locally.

“We have positive tests in connecting counties,” Watkins said. “We are still operating under the premise that there might be active cases out there, but it has not been recognized at this time. We are still unable to get sample kits in order to do testing for a majority of our residents.”

Watkins said President Trump’s disaster declaration for New York state means more personal protective equipment is on the way. Hopefully, that will mean more sample test kits as well, he said.

Watkins said downstate hospital personnel are running out of personal protective equipment like masks, gowns and gloves.

Personal protective equipment is in short supply locally as well.

Chris Baker, county Emergency Services director, said masks and no-touch thermometers are being obtained from school nurses’ offices through efforts by Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES officials.

These masks will be distributed where they are most needed, including to area first responders and other healthcare workers.

In addition, Joann Fabrics is providing patterns for masks to residents who are using them to sew masks for distribution.

“We monitor social media at the Emergency Operations Center,” Baker said. When someone saw Joann Fabrics was making patterns for masks and giving them away in order to help increase the local supply, the EOC contacted the company.

“You have to be creative on how to get this stuff until supplies can get here,” Baker said.

EOC is receiving numerous calls from people looking to volunteer their services, Baker said.

“There’s a lot of individuals and organizations out there looking to help,” he said. They range from Meals on Wheels drivers to people sewing medical masks.

Anyone seeking assistance or offering help during the COVID-19 emergency should contact EOC from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily including weekends. The phone number is (716) 938-9119. The Department of Aging can be reached at 373-8032 and the Health Department at 373-8050.

The EOC is also taking calls from individuals with specific needs or asking for information.

“The biggest thing we do is push out information,” Baker said of the 16 people manning the EOC. “We are getting requests, too.”

Baker said there is no travel ban in effect and the New York-Pennsylvania line is not closed as some callers think.

“Stay home as much as you can and practice social distancing,” he said. “It will make a difference.”

On another COVID-19 matter, Watkins said it appeared as if Olean General Hospital will be able to meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s directive to increase it’s bed capacity by 50% by Wednesday.

“Downstate is getting hit really hard,” said Watkins. “New York state has well over 20,000 confirmed cases. The state’s novel coronavirus death toll stood at 157 on Monday.

The hospital system in New York City will be overwhelmed unless the spread of COVID-19 can be slowed, Watkins said. Temporary military hospitals are being set up in new York City and on Long Island. Upstate hospitals are readying for similar virus outbreaks.

Watkins said a new rapid coronavirus test has been approved by the FDA which would allow hospitals and doctors offices to get rapid results.

This would also reduce the number of healthcare workers, doctors and nurses who would be required to wear personal protective equipment. “We are hoping to get some soon,” Watkins said.

Healthcare workers including those at nursing homes, hospitals and group homes are continually monitored for symptoms. They face COVID-19 testing and possible quarantine.

Two group homes were under quarantine until a negative test result was received by a healthcare worker on Monday, Watkns said. The group homes residents and staff were quarantined as well.

Watkins said he remained concerned about personal protective equipment. The Office of Emergency Services is awaiting a shipment of more PPE, he added.

“We’re asking everyone to shelter in place for now,” Watkins said. “All non-essential workforce should stay at home at this time.”

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)