(WIVB) — The first cases of Coronavirus in Erie County were reported Saturday, March 14.
The very next day was the start of this new normal for our community.
Erie County leaders gathered without masks to discuss the first cases of COVID-19 in Erie County.
“We are entering unchartered waters. What we will be seeing in the next few weeks is something we would not have even foreseen to ask of the public just a couple of weeks ago,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said.
What they were asking, is for people to follow the county’s strategy to contain the virus.
The county executive declared a state of emergency, and he and Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein outlined several safety measures to be put into place.
It was one of the first times we heard about social distancing.
“You want to increase your distance to six feet when you’re out in public in general areas,” Poloncarz said.
We were told to quarantine if we had traveled or had any symptoms and we were reminded tirelessly to wash our hands.
Dr. Gale Burstein said, “when you wash your hands, also make sure don’t touch your face. Because again if you have virus on your face and you touch your eyes, your nose or your mouth, that’s how you get infected.”
This was also before masks and facial coverings were mandated, and there was a lot of confusion, over their effectiveness.
The county executive said, “face masks are those who have illness. If you don’t have illness they really won’t protect you.”
Poloncarz closed all schools in the county., initially only for that Monday.
“When you close schools, like they’re doing elsewhere and what’s being done tomorrow. You are not to go to Chuck E. Cheese with your kids. You are not to go to the mall. You are to stay home.”
We know now a year later, students still aren’t fully back in classrooms.
Masks are required in almost all social settings, and the CDC says they are effective, not just for those who have the virus, and social distancing is not only still required but is accepted as a new normal in our society.
One thing that’s remained the same is the message of hope from leaders, and a call for unity.