Released: 5/15/2020 10:17:10 AM
By Maki Becker
Published 6:42 p.m. May 14, 2020
For the first time in four days, the number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 in Erie County has decreased.
But the three-day average for new patients with the coronavirus entering hospitals in Western New York increased.
And that means the five counties designated as the Western New York region aren't ready to safely reopen, according to the latest metrics collected by the state.
"As of now, Western New York is not ready," said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul in a Zoom conference with reporters Thursday.
Just a few days ago, local leaders were heartened to see key figures "trending in a positive direction," Hochul said.
But the new numbers showed there had been a setback.
"There's a time to reset," Hochul said.
While Buffalo and Niagara Falls will remain on "pause," Syracuse became the biggest city in the state allowed to begin the first phase of the state's reopening plan Friday. That includes manufacturing, construction and certain types of retail outlets, if they can conduct business curbside.
Central New York became the fifth region allowed to begin reopening, joining the Mohawk Valley, Southern Tier, Finger Lakes and the North Country already been deemed ready.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said seeing other regions allowed to reopen gives him hope.
"It means that hospitalizations are going down and deaths in hospitals are going down. It's a clear indication that Buffalo and WNY are going in that direction," Brown told The Buffalo News.
Officials stressed the importance of wearing face coverings, maintaining distance of at least 6 feet apart from other people and avoiding mass gatherings.
"I'm a big Buffalo believer," Brown said. "I believe Buffalo can do it. I believe Western New York can do it. People have to do the right thing. If they do the right thing we will absolutely do it."
The state's online "dashboard" of seven benchmarks regions need to reach to reopen showed Erie, Niagara, Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties had met only four of seven categories.
Cuomo, who gave his daily Covid-19 briefing in Syracuse Thursday, said he couldn't yet say whether popular summer events in Central New York such as the Syracuse Nationals hot rod car event or the New York State Fair would be allowed to go forward.
"I'm not going to guess. I'm not going to opine. We will make the decisions when we have to make the decisions. ... They have to tell me what their drop dead date is," Cuomo said.
The latest data from Erie County released Thursday by County Executive Mark Poloncarz showed a drop in Covid-19 hospitalizations, a key metric for the region.
Because Erie County is the population center, what happens in the county serves as the primary driver of what happens with the regional totals.
There were 196 people hospitalized with Covid-19 in Erie County on Tuesday, the latest date for which data was available, Poloncarz posted on Twitter. Data previously released showed increases on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
"Good to see all patients dropping again after prior 3 days," Poloncarz tweeted Thursday.
But the five-county region of Western New York is failing to meet three out of seven key measures established by the state.
First, the region needs to have 14 straight days of a decrease in a three-day rolling average of that figure in order to meet one of the state's benchmarks.
The latest data released for the Western New York region showed the three-day average increasing for two days in a row.
The state website also showed an increase in the number of new hospitalizations.
As of Thursday afternoon, the region had more than two new Covid-19 hospitalizations for every 100,000 residents.
Also, the region must also have 14 straight days of decreasing numbers of hospital deaths from Covid-19. And that has not occurred.
The region has met benchmarks for having an adequate number of available hospital beds and ICU beds, having enough contact tracers and providing enough Covid-19 testing.
As regions in the middle part of the state reopen, Cuomo urged caution and vigilance. Local governments need to check daily on their hospitalization numbers to make sure there isn't a resurgence, he said.
"You have to reopen intelligently. You have to reopen in a calibrated way," Cuomo told reporters.
He also discussed how to approach socializing, like when it might be OK for grandparents to visit their grandchildren.
"There was never a law on social interactions, right?" Cuomo said.
He pointed out that he hadn't visited his own mother, the namesake of Matilda's Law, which required New Yorkers over 70 to stay home and limit visits.
"I could have. That's up to me," Cuomo said. "This is your relationship. It's your family. It's your friend. We have guidelines. We have best practices. That's up to individuals. That's why I say inform yourself. I suggest caution."