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Poloncarz urges people to get tested for Covid-19, pessimistic about summer sports

If you believe you've been exposed to Covid-19 and want a diagnostic test, come and get one. You don't need to show symptoms. In fact, County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Wednesday, if you get tested, you will be helping the region reopen the local economy.

But as for local sports leagues reopening soon, Poloncarz has his doubts. Poloncarz predicted it will be July at the earliest.

Those are the key points from Poloncarz's briefing Wednesday, during which he reviewed data showing Erie County's hospitalization numbers are once again trending downward.

Fifteen more county residents have died of Covid-19 over the last two days, bringing total deaths to 323.

In sharp contrast to previous months when county leaders restricted Covid-19 testing because of test material shortages, Poloncarz on Wednesday urged residents who believe they may have been exposed to Covid-19, or are at high risk for exposure, to make an appointment to get tested.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said every region in the state must be able to test 30 out of every 1,000 residents monthly – one of seven metrics the state requires before deciding whether a region can reopen businesses.

But Poloncarz said testing vacancies exist at every major drive-through testing site sponsored by the county, the state and Kaleida Health.

"To meet the governor's standard, we have to meet a certain level of testing," he said. "It would be terrible after having, early on, hardly any tests and people wanting to be tested. Now, we have lots of tests. We don't have people to test."

Anyone interested in being tested is asked to make an appointment by calling (716) 858-2929.

The number of confirmed positive Covid-19 cases in Erie County has grown to 3,939. That is an increase of 230 cases since Sunday evening.

There has been an unusual spike in cases over the past week in the Town of Aurora, which Poloncarz attributed to cases in nursing homes. The 202 confirmed cases are three times higher than the number at the start of last week.

Meanwhile, Poloncarz also clarified his comment from earlier Wednesday that he believed there will be no sports "at all" this summer.

He said that even if the region were to meet all the benchmarks laid out by the state and partially reopen on May 15, which Poloncarz is not optimistic about, the state's reopening plan includes four phases, each of which is spaced at least two weeks apart.

Recreation and entertainment are included in the fourth phase, so even in the best case scenario, Poloncarz said, that put local sports leagues and sporting events reopening "sometime in July."

"If it didn't go well, we would not move onto the next phase until we can show we can handle the new caseload, so to speak, in both the hospitals and otherwise," he said. "I get a lot of parents who are like, 'Please open up youth sports.' I don't make that call."

In regard to professional sports, Poloncarz said he doesn't know whether the Bills will be able to play in the fall. As to the Buffalo Bisons possibly getting an exemption to start sooner, Poloncarz said he's awaiting guidance on that. But even if it's possible, fans would likely be barred from the stadium.

[Related: Poloncarz eyes June 1 reopening as Erie County trains contact tracers]

Poloncarz streamed his briefing on Erie County's YouTube channel.

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