While Cattaraugus County is the only remaining county in Western New York without a confirmed case of the coronavirus, Dr. William Mills, vice president of medical affairs at Upper Allegheny Health, on Tuesday said the crisis is long from being over.
The statement from Mills came soon after President Donald Trump said during a Fox News town hall that he wants the United States to ease coronavirus restrictions and be "raring to go by Easter," according to multiple news reports. Easter is 19 days away.
During a media call with reporters,”Mills said, “We’re staying very vigilant, very prepared. No one thinks this virus is done yet.”
With the worst of the virus estimated to be ahead, Mills said he, his staff and the Cattaraugus County Department of Health feel more prepared than last week.
“When we talked last week, it felt like things were changing every hour,” Mills said. “Now it’s down to maybe twice a day.”
A big part of that sense of preparedness stems from changes at Olean General Hospital.
“We will have upwards of 50 beds on both sides of the (Pennsylvania) border that are so-called negative pressure, meaning that the room pressure is less than the hallway pressure, so that we don’t let any viruses or bacteria out. That’s a pretty impressive engineering feat that the guys are working really hard on,” he said.
Jeff Zewe, CEO of Upper Allegheny Health, said Olean General Hospital has the ability to increase its capacity by 75 beds as part of a surge plan that every hospital in New York State was required to create.
“We’d be looking at 225 total beds,” Zewe said. “Could we create more if we had to? We would do what we needed to do, but comfortably, it’d be around 225 beds.”
In another hospital-related change, Mills said that in order to reduce traffic and risk factor, visitors are no longer permitted at Olean General Hospital.
“We still have eliminated visitors at the hospitals, per the state,” Mills said. “That’s just a good thing to do, and the public has been pretty good about that. It’s for their safety and the safety of their loved ones who are in the hospital.”
In terms of testing, Mills said nothing has changed. Resources and test kits in the county are sparse. As of Tuesday, Mills said 65 tests have come back negative and 10 results are still pending.
“We’re still in the same place,” Mills said. “Very, very short in supplies. We haven’t gotten the supplies that have been ordered.”
Mills said the lack of testing has a huge impact on Cattaraugus County having no cases of COVID-19.
“Probably a huge role,” Mills said. “We don’t know, we don’t have any positives. We are doing all of the things to keep in front of it. I’d love to get 77,000 tests in this county to test everyone, so we could see where we are. At least a bigger sample would be great.”
Going forward, Zewe said he hopes the community continues to work together to move past COVID-19 and that Olean General hospital is in good shape with supplies.
“We’ve had a lot of community members reach out to us, wanting to make masks,” Zewe said. “We’ve told them to proceed. In the event things get worse, we’d utilize those. We’re in very good shape.”
He said he’s been happy with the support and the Greater Olean area’s cooperation in regard to social distancing.
“We’ve spent a lot of time with business leaders in the community, really trying to talk through this and get them to screen their employees for symptoms. It’s a community effort. Even when you're on the streets, there’s less cars and less people. This whole notion of isolation has really been paying its dividends.”
For more information on the Coronavirus in the Greater Olean area, visit TAPinto Greater Olean's Coronavirus Updates page, which is updated continuously.
Sign Up for E-News to get top stories delivered daily to your inbox.