BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – In an unscheduled COVID-19 briefing Tuesday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he expected an announcement to be made regarding the county’s yellow zone on Wednesday.
“The conversations I’ve had with the governor’s office indicate that an announcement will be made Wednesday on a determination as to what portions of the yellow zone will enter orange, or for that matter red,” Poloncarz said. “And I also believe there is a significant chance that areas currently not in the yellow zone will be added to the yellow zone starting (Wednesday).”
Poloncarz said last week, Elma (11.8%), North Collins (11.6%), Boston (11.5%), and Derby (10.9%) were the communities with the highest coronavirus testing positivity rates in the county. Of those four areas, only Elma is currently in the yellow zone.
County-wide numbers suggest the yellow zone will be upgraded in at least some areas on Wednesday. Tuesday marked the 13th straight day that the 7-day rolling average of Erie County’s positivity rate was above 3%. One of the state’s target metrics for an area to enter an orange zone is at least 10 straight days above 3%.
Areas with a rolling average above 4% for at least 10 days can qualify for a red zone. Erie County’s rate has been above 4% for nine straight days, as of Tuesday.
In addition, Erie County’s number of new cases per 100,000 residents (43) is well above the benchmark of 10 for a yellow, orange, or red zone according to a News 4 analysis of state data.
“Now is not a time to point fingers,” Poloncarz said. “Now is the time to come together as a community and say we can overcome this unfortunate growth of COVID-19 in our community.”
Dr. John Crane, an infectious disease expert at the University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine, said greater restrictions could help drive down numbers.
“I think it could,” Crane said. “But remember when restrictions go into place, it takes about two weeks before we see the first indications that the restrictions are starting to work.”
More than 700,000 of Erie County’s 920,000 residents currently live in a yellow zone. Orange zone restrictions call for some non-essential businesses to close and schools to go fully remote for at least four days. They must then conduct mass testing before they reopen. Restaurants would be prohibited from offering indoor dining. Red zone restrictions require all remaining non-essential businesses to shut down, and restaurants to switch to take-out or delivery only.
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.