BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Erie County Department of Health is changing course and now releasing more information about the number of people in quarantine within the county based on exposure to the coronavirus.
Starting March 6, the health department will update weekly the number of people in quarantine due to possible coronavirus exposure. They will not release other personal identifying information such as age, occupation, school district, and location of residence.
There are currently 116 people in quarantine in Erie County as part of the coronavirus protocol. NYS says 115 of those quarantines are precautionary. One quarantine is mandatory.
Niagara County issued this statement Friday afternoon regarding the number of precautionary quarantine in their county:
"At this time, Niagara County has four voluntarily quarantined individuals. Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of well people, who may have been exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. These public health actions are precautionary in nature and follow all CDC guidance. We will continue to provide information as the situation warrants.”
There are currently no confirmed cases of coronavirus in WNY.
“Protecting the privacy of these individuals while also keeping the public informed is of paramount importance and we are doing everything we can to maintain that. By releasing this aggregate data, we will be able to keep the public up-to-date on the quarantine process while protecting that privacy,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein in a released statement. “This number will change constantly from day to day, so releasing it weekly is most practical means to get this information out. Currently we do not have a confirmed case of COVID-19 in Erie County, but if that changes the public will also be made aware of that.”
Since the end of January, the health department has managed 147 total quarantine cases, and 31 individuals have already completed their quarantine period.
“Our epidemiology office is in contact with these individuals daily throughout the course of their quarantine period. The quarantine process is a safeguard and a proven preventive measure to protect public health.”
When asked earlier this week by 2 On Your Side's Dave McKinley how many people in Erie County were tested for coronavirus, Erie County Department of Health Commissioner Gail Burstein would not give an exact number.
"I can't discuss individual cases," she said. "I don't want to put anybody at risk of having their information disclosed."
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, "The state violated the law. We have been told what they did was wrong and we can't violate ourselves. In revealing the location of the individuals that were subject to a test, there was a fear that the individuals had the virus and a fear in this community."
Rich Azzopardi, the spokesperson for the Governor's office, responded to Poloncarz's remarks saying, "State and county health departments in New York and around the country have been routinely providing this information. It’s our obligation during a public health epidemic to keep the public informed. Faith in government competence is paramount in these situations and misinformation undermines that. The County Executive should correct the record immediately."
Shortly after, Poloncarz apologized for his statements inferring the governor broke the law.