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Even with scarcity of test kits, Covid-19 cases tick upward in Erie, Niagara

Erie and Niagara counties confirmed 14 more cases of Covid-19 on Saturday as officials longed for the additional test kits that would give them a better view of the virus's spread through the region.

More cases were confirmed in Buffalo, Amherst and Clarence, bringing Erie County's total number of confirmed cases to 56, County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said.

Meanwhile, Niagara County announced five new positive Covid-19 test results from the state Department of Health. That brought the number of confirmed cases there to nine. Among them is a 33-year-old North Tonawanda man who is in a local intensive care unit.

Of the newest cases, three others involved people in North Tonawanda. Isolated in three separate homes are two women, ages 43 and 51, and a 64-year-old man. A 29-year-old woman is in isolation at her home in the City of Lockport.

County officials said the four new cases in North Tonawanda have no apparent connection to each other.

In a positive development for Erie County, Poloncarz said he expects to receive more test kits – of an undetermined number – from the state on Tuesday.

While private labs are also testing people showing symptoms, county officials have said their response has been hamstrung by a lack of test kits. They rapidly went through their  initial supply of 450 tests in recent days as they also loosened restrictions on who could be tested.

The results of hundreds of tests still are not known. Erie County's Public Health Laboratory has yet to complete 232 tests, Poloncarz said in a post on Twitter. The Erie County laboratory also performs tests for neighboring counties, and some 98 tests from elsewhere await completion, he said.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, however, said New York State has conducted more tests for Covid-19, by far, than any other state in the country and has performed more such tests on a per-capita basis than China or South Korea.

Cuomo on Saturday said officials have processed 45,437 Covid-19 tests statewide, nearly as many as the next two states – California and Washington state – combined.

"The more tests you take, the more positives you find," Cuomo said. That is New York's mission, he said, because then those infected patients and the people who came into contact with them can be quarantined.

"Our goal is to find positive cases," he said.

New York as of Saturday morning had 10,356 Covid-19 cases – half the national total – with 3,254 of them new since Friday. About 15% are hospitalized.

The vast majority are in New York City and its suburbs.

"The virus spreads in density," Cuomo said, adding this crisis will take months, not weeks, to pass.

The governor did not provide an update on the number of coronavirus-related deaths. Neither Erie or Niagara counties has confirmed a death from Covid-19.

-Staff News Reporter Matt Glynn contributed to this report.

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