Cattaraugus county sees drop in infection rates, schools remain skeptical on increasing in-person learning

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CATTARAUGUS N.Y. (WIVB) – One factor holding schools back from increasing in-person learning is the number of COVID-19 cases compares to a county’s population.

“It’s a tricky situation. When you have to look at the daily trending numbers, or your positivity rates and it could be somewhat of a daunting task, for those superintendents and those principals,” said Public Health Director for Cattaraugus County Dr. Kevin Watkins.

School districts throughout Western New York are waiting to fall under infection rates of 100 per 100,000 residents. Based on state guidelines, if a county’s numbers fall below that rate, school districts can begin bringing middle and high school students back in the classroom five days a week.

“I know we have a few schools who have decided to go ahead and remain on that remote type of learning or cohort learning. There are others who are just waiting for the opportunity to bring the high schoolers back,” Watkins said.

Just last week the numbers in Cattaraugus County were low enough for school districts to consider bringing more students back. However, the case numbers increased a few days later.

“These numbers can fluctuate so you just have to be careful,” Watkins said. “I think our schools are going to take it as being a little conservative when it comes to these numbers only because you want to air on the side of caution.”

He said although the county has made progress residents need to continue wearing their face masks and social distancing.

“I’m going to be optimistic about it and say that in the future, we should start to see ourselves trending downward,” Watkins said.

Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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