The numbers in Niagara County are exploding.

"I'm not going to sugar coat this to anyone," Public Health Director Dan Stapleton said Tuesday afternoon. "The surge is upon us."

Stapleton was reacting to the highest levels of positive testing, hospitalization and death yet in the county from COVID-19. From Monday to Tuesday, 16 Niagara County residents died from virus-related complications. Since Friday, there have been 28 deaths reported in the county.

"The numbers are the highest we've had," Stapleton said. "It follows the natural progression of more positive tests that result in more hospitalizations and that culminates in more deaths."

From Monday to Tuesday, the county also recorded 364 new cases of COVID-19. The number is as much as 10 times higher than what had been the records set in the first wave of the illness in April and May.

"It's exactly what was talked about (prior to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays)," Stapleton said. "It's been a week to 10 days (since New Year's). We knew it was going to be hitting us."

Since the start of the pandemic, 247,242 COVID-19 tests have been administered to Niagara County residents. Those tests have yielded 10,812 positive results.

Of those positive results, 8,360 people have recovered from the virus. 

Countywide, on Tuesday, there were 2,277 active cases. Of those cases, 2,252 individuals were isolating at home and 25 were hospitalized.

"(The numbers) would lead us to believe this was the surge we were worried about," Stapleton said. 

The public health director said the only way to combat the surge is for people to continue to follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations of social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing. 

"You need to follow the guidelines and we need to get people vaccinated," Stapleton said. "That's the only things that are gonna stop it."

Since the start of the pandemic, 175 county residents have died as a result of their infections. 

Data on nursing home fatalities is tracked by New York state.

Cases climbing in the jail

Dan Greenwald, chief administrator of Niagara County Jail, said Tuesday that there are currently 30 active cases of COVID-19 in the correction facility.

The growth in cases comes after a Dec. 30 media release from the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office in which it was reported that 12 among 284 inmates had tested positive and the correction facility was working with the county and state health departments and the New York State Commission of Corrections.

“Any time we test a positive inmate, they are moved to our Covid-positive unit and they’re not in one room — they all have their own jail cell rooms,” Greenwald said. “We’re not double bunking or anything like that. It’s not a dormitory setting. Everybody has their own designated cell, a solid door. The best place to put them when they’re positive.” 

To date, he said, the jail has seen 49 cases and some of those individuals have come out of quarantine.

“The safety of our staff, inmates in our facility and the general public have been at the forefront of every decision made regarding our operations,” Sheriff Mike Filicetti said. “Minimizing the effects of COVID-19 remains a top priority for this office.”

— By Ben Joe

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