No concerns of a testing shortage in Erie County

Plus: Will MLB players take up Erie County coronavirus resources?

Mike Baggerman
July 30, 2020 - 3:00 am

    BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) – Despite fewer capabilities to test for coronavirus in Niagara County, officials in Erie County are confident they can continue to meet the testing needs for the community as demand for kits and reagents continue to increase across the country.

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    Niagara County Public Health Director Dan Stapleton told WBEN on Wednesday that some area hospitals, including Eastern Niagara Hospital and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, are suspending community testing sites because they are not receiving as many kits from their provider, Kaleida Health. Two weeks ago, Niagara County had 13 testing sites. Stapleton said now said there are only six.

    READ MORE: Shortage of testing capabilities in Niagara County

    “We have a steady supply that is coming in through the Erie County Department of Health,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said. “There are concerns about other locations that were relying on third-party providers who are relying on reagents…We feel at this point we can meet the continual need that we are receiving and the calls we are receiving through the department of health.”

    Poloncarz said there would not be enough supply if the county was the only entity testing for COVID-19 locally. WellNow Urgent Care, Walmart, and pharmacies are among the organizations that provide their own testing for coronavirus. New York State also has testing sites in the area.

    Erie County Health Commissioner Gale Burstein said she is not aware of any testing sites which closed down in Erie County. Approximately 20,000 tests were done each week for the last few weeks and there is some delay in getting results from a test back.

    “Hospitals have had to narrow down who they’re testing because they’re doing testing of their patients, their staff, some of them are working with nursing homes to test them,” she said. “They may not have the capabilities of doing as much testing as they would like to in the community. However, I think our data shows the people in Erie County are still getting tested. However, outside the health department, sometimes the testing turnaround time can be a little longer than we’d like to see, which is frustrating in terms of contact tracing.”

    Erie County acquires tests and reagents from the CDC. Burstein said their limitation with testing is more attributed to staffing than it is the materials to diagnose with coronavirus.

    “It’s not the reagents,” Burstein said. “We can get enough reagents. We can just tell the CDC we need more.”

    Erie County on Friday will hold a coronavirus testing site at New Zion Baptist Church for people after an outbreak at the church. Despite fewer than ten people contracting coronavirus at the church in recent weeks, officials are worried because those impacted were all from different families.

    The testing kits for Friday’s tests will be in the Fruit Belt neighborhood will be available in Buffalo, though the results will be processed at the state’s public health lab in Albany. Burstein said this is a “divide and conquer” agreement made between the state and local governments.

    Buffalo is scheduled to begin holding Major League Baseball games starting August 11. Poloncarz said the players will not utilize county resources for testing as MLB has their own agreement with The Sports Medicine and Research Testing Lab in Utah to handle all coronavirus tests.

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