Month: January 1970

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Posted 7 November 2020 at 7:00 am

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Posted 21 September 2020 at 7:00 am

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Albion grad picked as new superintendent for ACS

Staff Reports Posted 1 December 2020 at 6:23 pm

Mickey Edwards, former Albion teacher and principal, has been leading Byron-Bergen school district

ALBION — The Board of Education has picked an Albion graduate to be the next district superintendent.

Mickey Edwards

Mickey Edwards started his career in Albion as an art teacher. From 2007 to 2009, Edwards was the Principal at Charles D’Amico High School. He also served as the Assistant Principal at Carl I. Bergerson Middle School for four years and interned as Dean of Students in Ronald L. Sodoma Elementary School. Edwards lives in the district in Kent. His three children all graduated from the district.

The Board of Education this evening appointed Edwards to be superintendent. He is expected to start in mid-January to February 1, 2021.

“I am incredibly honored and grateful to the Board of Education for extending me the opportunity to serve as Albion’s next Superintendent of Schools,” Edwards said in a news release from the district. “My hope is to bring my experiences, skills and network of contacts to the district and help build upon our mission of Achievement, Character and Success for Life. I look forward to being a part of the team and serving our community together.”

After graduating from Albion, Edwards spent four years active duty in the United States Marine Corps before beginning his career as a teacher at Albion.

After working at ACS, he was the Coordinator of Curriculum and Instruction at Orleans-Niagara BOCES before gaining six years of experience as a superintendent. In 2014 he was

appointed as the superintendent at Wyoming Central School District. He was there two years before being hire din 2016 as superintendent at Byron-Bergen Central School.

Under his leadership, Byron-Bergen Junior-Senior High School has been named to US News and World Report Best High Schools in the Nation for the last two years. Additionally, Edwards resurrected an agriculture and FFA program in the district after the program’s 40-year hiatus and worked to increase the amount of advanced college courses offered at the high school, including AP and Genesee Community College ACE Courses. He also implemented a program for trauma, illness and grief in the district to address the social and emotional needs of staff, students and families.

“The ACS Board of Education is pleased to welcome Mickey Edwards as our next Superintendent of Schools,” according to a statement from the board. “With input from stakeholders, the Board set out to find a superintendent who was a proven leader, of unquestioned integrity, with proven collaboration and communication skills and an ability to improve student performance and programs. We believe Mr. Edwards embodies not only these characteristics and qualities, but so much more. His experience as superintendent in two previous districts will allow him to hit the ground running, while his background as a lifelong Albion resident and Purple Eagle will provide him with a deeper understanding of school and community needs and the drive to fiercely advocate for our students.”

When he was at Albion previously, Edwards was on the committee that developed the district’s mission statement of “Achievement, Character, and Success for Life,” and still firmly stands by it. He believes the mission statement “needs to be part of everything we do, not just words on a wall.”

Edwards serves on a number of committees and boards across the Genesee Valley region including chairman for Career & Technical Education Committee, member of Legislative Committee, a representative in the House of Delegates for NYS Council of School Superintendents (NYSCOSS) and the Board of Directors for Rural Schools Association and Genesee County Business Education Alliance.

“We would like to thank the students, parents, teachers, staff and community members who participated in focus groups and completed the superintendent search surveys,” the BOE stated. “The input provided was invaluable, and gave us the guidance we needed as we reviewed applications and interviewed candidates for the position.”

Free canal calendars available at local libraries

Posted 1 December 2020 at 4:55 pm

The cover of the 2021 Erie Canalway Calendar features A.T. McLean’s winning photo of the Butternut Creek Aqueduct, located in the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park in DeWitt. Calendars are available for free beginning today at libraries and visitor centers throughout the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

Press Release, Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor

WATERFORD – The public is invited to pick up a free 2021 Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor calendar starting today at selected libraries and visitor centers throughout the National Heritage Corridor. The calendar features winning images from this year’s Erie Canalway photo contest.

“The calendar showcases the unique beauty, history, and character of New York’s canals and canal communities,” said Bob Radliff, Erie Canalway Executive Director. “We hope it inspires people to preserve and celebrate our incredible canal heritage.”

Calendars will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, thanks to generous sponsorship by the NYS Canal Corporation.

“The 2021 calendar celebrates our iconic Canal System by displaying brilliant photographs as captured by many of our canalside neighbors, and I encourage everyone to retrieve one while supplies last, so that they too can enjoy these spectacular scenes all year long,” said New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton.

Editor’s Note: The public libraries in Albion, Brockport, Holley, Medina and Middleport are among the locations listed as having the calendars. (Lee-Whedon Memorial Library in Medina is closed to the public until Dec. 7.)

Click here to see a list of locations where the calendar is available. For people who don’t live in the Canal Corridor, you can request a copy by emailing

Cory Pawlaczyk took this photo of a sunrise along the Erie Canal in Medina. It is featured in September in the new calendar highlighting Erie Canal scenes.

County outlines $73 million budget that stays under tax cap

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 December 2020 at 4:27 pm

Administrator says state mandates dominate tax levy

ALBION – Orleans County officials went over a proposed $73 million budget for 2021 that would increase the tax levy by 1.66 percent. That stays under the county’s allowable tax cap of 1.75 percent.

The county had $314,749 in allowable growth in the levy. The budget came in with about a $15,000 cushion before hitting the tax cap, said Jack Welch, the county’s chief administrative officer. The 2021 budget is his first one since taking over as top administrator in March.

The budget would increase spending by 2.16 percent, from $71,711,638 to $73,262,025. The tax rate would increase by 1.11 percent or 11 cents, from $9,87 to $9.98 per $1,000 of assessed property.

“The 2021 budget moves us in the right direction, keeps the services our residents depend on, stays within the tax cap and fights Covid,” County Legislature Chair Lynne Johnson said during a budget hearing on Monday evening.

That hearing was conducted through Zoom video conferencing due to Covid-19 concerns and restrictions. About 40 people participated in the Zoom conference.

The Legislature is scheduled to vote on the budget at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday in a meeting to be conducted through Zoom.

Johnson praised the county employees for their efforts the past eight months during a pandemic. All of the departments have needed to change the way they provide services.

The Covid pandemic has been “the greatest public health threat” during the lifetimes of the current legislators and cunty officials, she said.

“The departments stepped up and mobilized like never before,” Johnson said.

She also praised the county workforce for their sacrifices. There were 34 employees temporarily laid off in late April and 10 other positions weren’t filled due to fiscal constraints from the pandemic.

The proposed budget would eliminate 8 full-time jobs and 12 part-time positions from 2020. The county will down 8 full-time positions from 333 to 325.

Department heads followed the push from the Legislature to submit “no frills” budgets, Johnson said.

Johnson remains hopeful the federal government will come through with a relief package for local governments. But with no funding yet approved by Congress for localities, Johnson said the county officials had to act and craft a budget that stays under the tax cap but also maintains existing programs.

“It is our investment in people and services,” she said. “It shows we are here to serve you and continue to serve you in a responsible way.”

Nine mandated programs from the state account for more than 90 percent of the tax levy, Welch said. Those “9 for 90” mandates and their county cost include: Medicaid, $8,121,776; Pension, $3,054,489; Public Assistance/Safety Net, $1,802,337; Child Welfare/Protection, $1,336,399; Special Education, $971,931; Probation, $759,299; Indigent Defense, $536,053; Youth Detention, $302,650; and Early Intervention, $204,688.

Those nine mandated costs add up to $17,089,622, or 93 percent of the $18,309,497 tax levy.

Some other highlights include:

• The budget allocates $2,577,00 in capital projects — $1,225,000 for highway reconstruction with state CHIPS money (down 20%), $1,152,000 in preventive maintenance on four bridges (funded through federal TIP funds), and $100,000 in county funds for culvert and bridge repairs, and $100,000 in local funds to patch and seal county roads.

• Sales tax is currently slightly above the receipts in 2019. That convinced county officials to budget $400,000 more in sales tax in 2021, to $16,175,000.

• The budget also maintains funding to outside agencies. They didn’t face a funding cut, and they didn’t get an increase.

Those agencies and organizations in the budget include: $240,000 to Cornell Cooperative Extension, $190,000 to Orleans Economic Development Agency, $92,500 to Soil & Water Conservation District, $10,000 to be shared among four public libraries, $5,000 to Mercy Flight, $4,000 to Sportsmen Federation, and $3,000 to GO Art!

• The fee for solid waste and recycling service will be $216, which is a 2percent increase from 2020.

• The budget also calls for 2 percent raises for the seven county legislators. Their pay will go from $18,496 to $18,886 for the chair, $13,985 to $14,265 for the vice chair, and from $12,329 to $12,576 for the other five legislators.

Winners announced from reverse Parade of Lights

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 1 December 2020 at 2:31 pm

Medina Railroad Museum repeats as grand champion

Photos by Tom Rivers: The Medina Railroad Museum was named grand prize winner of Saturday’s 12th annual Parade of Lights. There were about 20 displays in the parade.

MEDINA – Winners of Saturday’s Parade of Lights have been announced by the parade committee, chaired by Jim Hancock.

For the second year in a row, Medina Railroad Museum was the Grand Prize winner for their float of a lighted railroad station.

“This year was quite different from previous years,” Hancock said. “We were so thankful to have as many entries as we did.”

Because of the Covid pandemic and restrictions on crowds, the Parade of Lights Committee came up with the idea for a reverse parade. Floats were stationed throughout the Medina Central School Campus, while vehicles drove through and viewed them.

Orleans County Tourism, which had a fishing-themed float in the “parade,” estimated 1,800 cars passed through the school grounds. Cars started lining up before 4:30 p.m., in anticipation of the 5 p.m. start.

Traffic filled village streets from Oak Orchard and Park Avenue to the Pickle Factory, Gwinn Street, West Avenue and Main Street, at times a steady stream through intersections and across the railroad tracks.

When it became evident all the cars could not make it through by the 8 p.m. closing time, float participants agreed to stay until everyone had seen the parade. This took until 8:45 p.m.

In addition to the Grand Prize winner, the following prizes were awarded:

Best in Class – Not for Profit: Knights-Kaderli Memorial

Fire Company: Middleport Fire Department

Service Clubs: Little Bits 4-H Club

Business: Party Tents Plus

Religious: Grace Baptist Church

Other: Orleans County Tourism

Littlest Elf Award: Cub Pack 18

Littlest Elf Award: Cobblestone Girl Scouts.

Star Award: Red Rose Landscaping.

Santa’s Pick: Parker’s Pit.

The East Shelby Volunteer Fire Company was among the Community Spirit Award winners.

Community Spirit Awards – Case-Nic Cookies, Calvary Tabernacle, Shelby Fire Company, East Shelby Fire Company, Orleans Community Health/Surgical Unit, Medina Lions Club and Canal Village Farmer’s Market.

Each winner will receive a cash award and a plaque.

“If it wasn’t for these organizations/people, we wouldn’t have had a parade this year,” Hancock said. “They are all winners.”

Volunteer honored for creating digital database of cobblestone sites in NY and beyond

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 December 2020 at 12:48 pm

Landmark Society of WNY gives special citation to Greg Lawrence

Courtesy of Cobblestone Museum: This photo of the Alexander Town Hall in Genesee County is among about 5,000 images in the new digital archive available through the Cobblestone Museum. This building was erected in 1837 as a boarding house. It later became a school and then the town hall. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

GAINES – The Landmark Society of WNY has presented its annual awards for people who have tackled ambitious preservation projects in the region.

Greg Lawrence

A Clarendon resident is among the winners. Greg Lawrence was recognized with a special citation from the Landmark Society for his efforts in creating the digital repost for all 800 known cobblestone buildings in New York State, as well as in some other states and Canada. Altogether, the database includes nearly 1,000 cobblestone sites.

This archive includes about 6,500 images in a database created by Lawrence, who took on the project as a volunteer.

Lawrence worked to digitize a collection of photographs, with most of the images are from Robert L. Roudabush between 1976 and 1980. The images and scans of maps are available online by clicking here.

The database includes cobblestone buildings in 28 counties in NY, and cobblestone sites in Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin, as well as structures in Canada, England and France.

Lawrence is retired after 31 years at Kodak in micrographics (microfilm) and high volume, commercial document scanners.

Erin Anheier, the Cobblestone Museum president, approached Lawrence in Spring 2018 with a proposal to digitally duplicate the “Robert Roudabush Survey of Cobblestone Buildings in New York State” archived at the Landmark Society of Western New York.

Lawrence accepted the challenge and expanded it to include an information base with a platform to maintain, update, and import information as desired. Lawrence said it is “a growing, living library of information, a repository of all known and found about cobblestone structures that can be accessed worldwide.”

Holley seniors sign to play soccer in college

By Mike Wertman, Sports Writer Posted 1 December 2020 at 12:21 pm

Contributed Photos – Holley High senior Kayleigh Neale this morning signed to continue her education and her soccer career at Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio. She is shown here at the signing with her parents Theresa and Keith Neale. A two time Genesee Region League All-Star, she plans on majoring in Psychology.

Holley High senior Halee Passarell signed this morning to continue her education and her soccer career at Finger Lakes Community College. She is shown here with her parents Lorraine and Michael Passarell at the signing. A three time Genesee Region League All-Star she plans on majoring in Viticulture and Enology.

Jacobs should press for federal aid for small businesses, local governments

Posted 1 December 2020 at 10:08 am


It is nice to see Congressman Chris Jacobs taking an interest in the district, listening to the suffering of restaurants and small businesses.

However, Mr. Jacobs voted against $2.2 trillion package that would offer relief of those restaurants and small businesses. In terms of the $138 billion being held up in the Paycheck Protection Program, Congressman Bob Gibbs (R-Oh) wrote in The Hill (10/5/20): “I signed the discharge petition which, if having received enough signatures from congressional representatives, would force the bill to the House floor for a vote. Right now, there aren’t enough Republicans in the House for that to happen.”

If there aren’t enough Republicans in the House signing the discharge petition, how is that Democrats’ fault.

It is true that small businesses and restaurants are financially suffering as well as government at all levels. Mr. Jacobs and his family business received millions in tax breaks from the 2017 Republican tax bill.

It is now time that small businesses, restaurants and local and state government get help from the federal government. Stop blaming Democrats for your failures to help the district; do your job.

Let’s get government working for the constituents of the district and support small businesses and local government.

William Fine


Snowy Owl sighted this morning at Lakeside park in Carlton

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 December 2020 at 10:01 am

CARLTON – Don Bemont sent in this photo he took of a Snowy Owl this morning, soon after it got light. Bemont took the photo along the service road at Lakeside Beach State Park.

The owls typically nest in the Arctic tundra and winter in Canada. But in recent winters they have migrated into the U.S. in search of food.

This owl appears to be a female. The males tend to be nearly all white while the females have darker markings except on their faces, which are always white.

Albion trio heads N-O All-League soccer team

By Mike Wertman, Sports Writer Posted 1 December 2020 at 9:19 am

Photos by Cheryl Wertman – Albion’s first team Niagara-Orleans All-League honorees include, from left, Claire Squicciarini, Sydney Mulka and Abby Scanlan.

Albion has placed a trio of players on the first team of the annual Niagara-Orleans All-League girls soccer squad.

The Purple Eagles are represented by senior midfielder Claire Squicciarini, junior forward Abby Scanlan and junior goalie Sydney Mulka.

Scanlan had 20 goals and 6 assists, Squicciarini 3 goals and 7 assists and in the net Mulka made 112 saves.

Co-champions Roy-Hart and Wilson have each placed two players.

Roy-Hart’s Kara Choate and Nadia White

The Lady Rams are represented by junior forward Kara Choate and sophomore forward Nadia White.

Choate, who has been named N-O Player Of  The Year, had 18 goals and 2 assists and White 5 goals and 6 assists.

The Lakewomen have placed senior midfielder Lilly O’Lay and freshman forward Leia Cloy. O’Lay had 11 goals and 4 assists and Cloy 9 goals and 7 assists.

Akron and Newfane have also both placed two players.

The Lady Tigers are represented by senior forwards Kara Seguin and Natalie Karmazyn. Seguin had a league high 21 goals and 10 assists and Karmazyn 13 goals and 3 assists.

Wilson’s Lilly O’Lay and Leia Cloy

The Lady Panthers have placed senior midfielder Rachel Chunco and junior defender Angelina DiTullio. Chunco had 6 goals and 4 assists and DiTullio 1 goal.

Completing the first team is Barker senior goalie Sydnie Luckman who made 285 saves..

Squicciarini, Scanlan, Choate, White and Seguin are all repeat first team honorees.

Roy-Hart leads the second team selections with four including senior defenders Maddy Colley and Clara Jones, sophomore midfielder Grace Parker and senior midfielder Cecelia Santos.

Wilson is represented by the trio of junior defender Kaelin Faery, sophomore defender Maddie Miller and freshman defender Rian Faery.

Albion has placed the junior duo of forward Leah Pritchard and defender Alyson Knaak.

Completing the second team are Akron seniors Madison Henning, a midfielder, and Olivia Kreher, a forward, along with Newfane eighth grader Anna Chunco, a midfielder.

The Honorable Mention selections, listed by school, are as follows:

Akron – senior Ava Martina, sophomore Stella VanWyk and freshman Maggie Middaugh

Albion – juniors Kenzi Hapeman, Emily Harling and Charley London

Barker – seniors Nya Johnson, Sarah Outten and Paige Sutch

Newfane – seniors Cora Harding and Natalia May and sophomore Ainsley DeBiase

Roy-Hart – sophomore Amelia Konstanty

Wilson – senior Kenzie Beyer and sophomores Madelaine Schultz and Isabella Lemke

Contributed Photos – Barker’s Sydnie Luckman and Akron’s Kara Seguin and Natalie Karmazyn

Diocese names new bishop to lead 600,000 WNY Catholics

Staff Reports Posted 1 December 2020 at 8:58 am

Provided photo: Bishop Michael William Fisher has been named the new leader of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

BUFFALO – Washington, D.C. Auxiliary Bishop Michael William Fisher has been appointed by His Holiness Pope Francis as the 15th bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo in an announcement from the Vatican today at noon Rome time.

“I am deeply humbled and grateful to the Holy Father for this gift to serve the people of Buffalo as their bishop,” said Bishop Fisher. “I am eager to become part of this vibrant faith community, with a proud and distinguished legacy of Catholic education, ministry and civic service.”

Fisher thanked Bishop Edward Scharfenberger “for the generosity of his spirit and his selfless devotion” in leading the Diocese for the past year as Apostolic Administrator following the resignation of Bishop Richard Malone. Scharfenberger also is the bishop of the Diocese of Albany.

The 8-county Diocese includes Orleans County and about 600,000 Catholics. It is a challenging time for the Diocese. Last February it filed for bankruptcy. Last week it was sued by the State Attorney General’s Office for failing to follow mandated policies and procedures that would help to prevent sexual abuse of minors by priests within the Catholic Church. The Diocese’s former senior leaders, Bishop Emeritus Richard J. Malone and former Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz, were named in the lawsuit.

Bishop Scharfenberger said the Diocese’s new leader has shown a passion “to serve, to listen, to heal and comfort have distinguished his 30-year ministry.”

Bishop Fisher, 62, is a native of Baltimore and the oldest of five children born to Margo and William Fisher. The new bishop was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal James A. Hickey on June 23, 1990. He was assigned to Sacred Heart parish in La Plata, Maryland, and in 1995 as a pastor of Holy Family parish in Hillcrest Heights, MD. Four years later, he became pastor of St. John Neumann parish in Gaithersburg, MD.

“At my core I am a parish priest and pastor,” said Bishop Fisher. “All I ever wanted to be when finally discerning and accepting the call to ministry was to serve a parish family, to walk with its members and accompany them on their own journey toward holiness; to share in their joys, their heartaches and to have some part to play in revealing the incomparable love and grace of God as they experience life’s defining moments.”

In 2005, then-Father Fisher was named a Chaplain to His Holiness John Paul II and was appointed that same year as Vicar General for the Apostolates which entailed overseeing archdiocesan ministries for education, ethnic ministries, social justice and service, parish life and youth ministry.

The following year, then-Monsignor Fisher was appointed Vicar for Clergy and Secretary for Ministerial Leadership, with responsibility for vocations, formation and care of the clergy for the archdiocese. Upon the appointment of Archbishop Wilton Gregory (now Cardinal Wilton Gregory) in 2019, Bishop Fisher maintained his responsibilities as Secretary for Ministerial Leadership.

He was named an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington by Pope Francis on June 8, 2018. Bishop Fisher was ordained to the episcopate on June 29, 2018 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Much of Bishop Fisher’s ministry has involved the continuing education of priests, particularly in aiding new pastors in their roles and the planning and implementation of ongoing clergy training via convocations and retreats.

Bishop Fisher’s installation will take place on Friday, January 15, 2021 at 2 p.m. in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Buffalo. His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Metropolitan Archbishop of New York, will preside and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, will be in attendance.

“Bishop Fisher is an exceptionally compassionate and skilled servant of the Church,” said Wilton Cardinal Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, D.C. “His distinguished history as pastor, Vicar for Priests, and member of our Pastoral Administration have prepared him well for his new responsibilities in that diocese. While we will miss his deft pastoral talents, they will be warmly welcomed by the faithful, religious, and clergy of the Diocese of Buffalo. May the Lord bring joy to his heart and to the hearts of the people who will welcome him.”

Snow showers in forecast for Orleans, other WNY counties could get a foot of snow

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 November 2020 at 9:31 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers: A car heads west on Presbyterian Road in Albion this afternoon while it was raining and there was light fog.

Snow showers are in the forecast for Orleans County on Tuesday and Wednesday, when the high temperatures are forecast for 38 on Tuesday and 37 on Wednesday.

The light snowfall is a contrast to other counties in Western New York that could get more than a foot of snow.

The National Weather Service in Buffalo has issued a winter storm warning from 1 a.m. Tuesday to 1 p.m. Wednesday for southern Erie, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, which could get 8 to 15 inches of snow. In Wyoming County, 4 to 8 inches of snow is expected, the National Weather Service said.

In Orleans, it will be mostly sunny with a high of 40 on Thursday, followed by a chance of rain and a high of 40 on Friday.

Saturday there is a chance of showers with a high near 43.

These trees by the Oak Orchard Elementary School playground are pictured at dusk on Saturday in Medina.

Governor announces 5 strategies in winter plan to fight Covid surge

Posted 30 November 2020 at 8:20 pm

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced New York’s plan for combating Covid-19 this winter. Over the past week, Governor Cuomo and the state’s Covid Task Force has worked in consultation with global public health experts, local governments and other stakeholders to ensure that the plan builds off the lessons learned during the past nine months to anticipate and prepare for an expected increase in Covid cases and hospitalizations over the holiday season.

Specifically, the winter plan consists of five targeted strategies focused on mitigating the spread of the virus and bolstering New York State hospital preparedness including:

  • Continue and Strengthen New York’s Targeted Micro-Cluster Strategy while Managing Hospital Capacity to Enhance and Equalize Care;
  • Increase and Balance Testing Resources and Availability;
  • Keep Schools Open Safely;
  • Prevent Viral Spread from Small Gatherings; and
  • Operationalize an Equitable and Safe Vaccination Program

“While the holiday season often brings joy to many, the increase in social activity and mobility will also bring an increase of viral transmission,” Cuomo said. “We understand the cause and effect, and the effect is dramatic. We must adapt to this reality and have a plan in place that specifically addresses the challenges that come with it. We’ve been through the worst, and while we’re not done yet, we are moving forward with the lessons we learned in the spring to come through this together.”

Strategy 1 – Continue and Strengthen New York’s Targeted Micro-Cluster Strategy while Managing Hospital Capacity to Enhance and Equalize Care

Since Governor Cuomo first launched New York’s micro-cluster strategy in mid-October, it has proved effective in identifying targeted areas with high infection rates and implementing additional restrictions to reduce viral spread in the micro-cluster area. This approach has allowed state and local health officials to target resources, has encouraged community members to take greater action to reduce viral spread, and helped prevent the need for larger, regional shutdowns which impact all aspects of life and the economy.

Under New York’s Winter Covid-19 Plan, this strategy will be strengthened through the utilization of additional, hospital-related metrics to provide a clearer picture of where a particular zone stands in the fight against Covid and how each neighborhood, municipality, and other geographic area contributes to daily hospital admissions due to Covid.

Under this improved strategy, the New York State Department of Health will include factors such as regional hospital bed capacity, ICU capacity, staffing ratios, and daily hospital admissions as part of the analysis and metrics used to determine which geographic areas qualify as micro-cluster zones.

In addition to the 3 existing micro-cluster zone levels (Yellow Precautionary, Orange Warning and Red), New York will also add a new ‘Emergency Stop’ level, which will effectively put that area under the NY Pause guidelines, if needed to preserve hospital capacity. Hospital metrics associated with these zones will be identified in the next week to 10 days, once data from the Thanksgiving holiday is received and analyzed.

Additionally, the Department of Health today began to initiate emergency hospital measures to prepare the state’s hospital system for an expected surge in new admissions over the upcoming weeks. Specifically, these measures include:

  • Hospital systems must begin to identify retired nurses and doctors to bolster staff;
  • Hospital systems in Erie County must suspend elective surgeries to create new bed capacity for Covid patients;
  • Hospital systems must begin balancing patient loads across their individual hospital facilities;
  • Prepare plans to utilize emergency field hospitals;
  • Prepare plans to increase hospital bed capacity by 50 percent;
  • Prepare plans to implement statewide ‘Surge and Flex’ operations (similar to load balancing, but patient shifts would occur across all hospital systems, as opposed to within individual hospital systems)
  • Prepare plans to staff emergency field hospitals; and
  • Confirm availability of resources in existing stockpiles.

The Department of Health will also be launching a new, statewide hospital metric tracking system.

Strategy 2 – Increase and Balance Testing Resources and Availability

Under the Winter Plan, New York state will take steps to increase the amount of testing available statewide, but do so in a way that ensures distribution is balanced with testing sufficient across different segments of the population, including:

  • Healthcare workers;
  • Nursing homes;
  • Schools;
  • Essential workers;
  • Business professionals;
  • Personal services testing; and
  • General population, returning students and travelers, etc.

Strategy 3 – Keep Schools Open Safely

One of the most critical aspects of managing the Covid-19 pandemic for governments and parents alike has been answering the question of how and when schools should remain open. On that point, experts from around the globe have determined that as long as a school’s infection rate is under control and remains under the infection rate of the community at large, schools should remain open, particularly for students in K-8. Not only does school provide parents with support in terms of childcare, it provides a regularity to life which has been missing for so many children throughout this pandemic.

Under New York’s Winter Plan, efforts will be focused on keeping K-8 and Special Education schools are kept open as long as it can be done safely. The first step will be to establish sustainable, ongoing testing in schools so that they can continue operating in the long term. As part of this, schools located in Orange and Red micro-cluster zones will be required to conduct weekly testing. Schools in Orange Zones will be required to test 20% of in person students, faculty, and staff over the course of a month and schools in Red Zones will be required to test 30% of in person students, faculty, and staff over a month. Pool testing will be allowed as well.

These protocols represent the minimum standard required for schools to stay open and the state may adjust requirements for specific districts based on any special circumstances which may arise. While local districts are able to close at levels under the state’s mandatory closure rule, they are urged to keep K-8 schools open whenever it is safe.

Strategy 4 – Prevent Viral Spread from Small Gatherings

Small gatherings have now been identified as the number one spreader of Covid-19, with at least 65 percent of all cases coming from these settings. Now that we are in holiday season, behavioral shifts must be observed by New Yorkers to mitigate the spread. Sixteen states, including New York, have already instituted gatherings limits of less than 10 people, with Kentucky recently moving to gathering limits to 8 or less.

While government’s ability to monitor small gatherings is limited, public education on the safety concerns of small gatherings is crucial. As New York State did with public campaigns urging mask compliance, New York State will be launching a public education campaign to highlight how small gatherings can lead to the spread of Covid-19 in the community.

Strategy 5 – Operationalize an Equitable and Safe Vaccination Program

While a vaccine is expected to be released in the coming weeks, it will be months before a critical mass of available vaccinations for the general public will be available. As the state builds its plan to distribute vaccinations, it will be founded on three main pillars:

  • Fairness;
  • Equity; and
  • Safety.

These pillars, as well as outreach to the Black and Brown communities with poor health outcomes who have been hit hardest by the pandemic, are critical to ensuring a fair distribution of the vaccine.

In first local Covid update in 5 days, 127 more cases in Genesee, 36 more in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 November 2020 at 5:33 pm

Orleans reports 37 more recoveries from Covid; Genesee also reports a death from Covid

In its first update since Wednesday in local Covid-19 cases, The Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments reported 127 new cases in Genesee and 36 new confirmed cases in Orleans.

“Due to the high number of cases from the long weekend we are finalizing the data and will have it updated along with the charts tomorrow,” the Health Departments said in a new briefing at 5 p.m. today.

In Orleans, the 36 new cases bring the total to 623 positive cases since March. The new positive cases reside in Albion, Barre, Clarendon, Gaines, Kendall, Murray, Ridgeway and Shelby. The individuals are in the age groups of 0-19, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.

Three of the individuals were on mandatory quarantine prior to testing positive.

Orleans also is reporting 37 more recoveries and they have been removed from the isolation list. In addition, three of the new positive cases were recovered prior to the Health Department receiving the test results and are included in the recovered data.

Orleans also is reporting one of new positive cases is an inmate at the Albion Correctional Facility, a women’s prison.

• 2 students, 1 staff member test positive at Albion Central School: The school district said that today it was informed that two students and one staff member tested positive for Covid-19 over Thanksgiving break. One of the students is learning 100 percent remotely while the other is a hybrid learner in the elementary school. The staff member works in the middle school.

The hybrid student was last in school on Tuesday, Nov. 17, the district said. Due to the 48-hour look-back period, the Department of Health determined there is no need to conduct contact tracing in school for either student, according to message from the district.

The Health Department has completed contact tracing for the staff member and has communicated with any close contacts.

Lyndonville staff member tests positive: The Lyndonville school district reported on Saturday that a staff member has tested positive for Covid-19. The staff member was last on campus on Nov. 16. As a result of precautionary measures, we have identified no close contacts as a result of this positive case, and therefore there is no need for any quarantine or remote learning, District Superintendent Jason Smith said.

• Medina reports 2 students, 3 staff members test positive: Medina Central School today notified the community that two students and three staff members have tested positive for Covid-19. That includes a student and staff member in the high school, two staff members in the middle school and one student in the elementary school.

The district is working with the Health Department to determine the the quarantine needs of the school. That includes one classroom section in the middle school and one classroom section in the elementary school being on quarantine.

In Genesee County, the 127 new positive cases of Covid bring the total to 954 since March. Complete details of the new cases will be included in tomorrow’s press briefing, the Health Departments said.

Of the new cases, 15 are residents at The Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing at Batavia and 7 are from the Batavia VA Medical Center.

Genesee is reporting that 12 of the current positive individuals are hospitalized.

Genesee County also had a resident pass away from Covid, bringing the total deaths from Covid in the county to 7. The individual was over the age of 65.

“To protect the individual’s privacy we will not be reporting any further information,” according to the news release from the Health Departments. “Our deepest condolences to this person’s family and friends on their loss during this very difficult time.”

More from the Genesee & Orleans County Health Departments:

Business Reminder: It is important to periodically review your Business Safety Plan that was developed earlier on in the pandemic. As part of the plan businesses were encouraged to develop contact sheets for all patrons to assist with contact tracing in the event of a potential Covid-19 exposure. This will help in investigations and will limit the necessity of press releases which will help limit potential spread.

Situational Update: We can’t stress enough the importance to limit time with non-household members. Continue to do your best to limit the spread of Covid-19 and the flu by frequently washing/sanitizing your hands, wear a mask/face-covering over your mouth and nose when out in public and keep at least 6 feet from non-household members. If you are not feeling well, please stay home and contact your primary care provider for guidance.

WNY National Cemetery for veterans dedicated this morning in Pembroke

Staff Reports Posted 30 November 2020 at 4:29 pm

PEMBROKE – Many dignitaries gathered this morning in the rain to dedicate the new Western New York National Cemetery in Pembroke.

The cemetery took more than a decade of work to become a reality, said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, one of the speakers at this morning’s ceremony.

He was joined by Department of Veterans Affairs officials and Western New York veterans who have been instrumental in the push to create a veteran cemetery in Western New York. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and Congressman Chris Jacobs also spoke at the dedication.

The 269-acre site on Indian Falls Road in Pembroke is located approximately 30 miles from Buffalo and 48 miles from Rochester. The cemetery will provide a fitting burial option to approximately 77,100 currently underserved veterans and family members living in Western New York.

The cemetery will be the first and only of its kind in the Buffalo-Rochester area and will save thousands of military families from having to travel more than 100 miles in some cases to what was previously the closest Veterans’ Cemetery in Bath, Schumer said.

“Today at long last, veterans across Western New York will have a fitting resting place and eternal place of honor right here in the very community they dedicated their lives to defend and serve,” Schumer said. “Dedicating this hallowed ground today answers the call of veterans who organized over a decade ago for a local National Cemetery. I was proud to take up their call and work alongside them to now realize this day. Now a grieving family will not be left to travel over 200 miles from their home to bury or visit their loved ones. Now the veterans of Western New York who have done so much for us and our nation will have a proper burial, at a National Cemetery close to their home, family and thankful community.”

A group of veterans started the process to get a cemetery dedicated for veterans in Western New York in the mid-2000s. The group, organized by Erie County Veteran and Advocate Dr. Patrick Welch gathered over 10,000 signatures that he and other veterans provided to Senator Schumer that called for the establishment of a veteran’s cemetery in Western New York.

For several years, Schumer said he worked alongside the veteran’s community of Western New York to push the U.S. Veterans Affairs Administration to establish a National Veterans Cemetery in WNY. In 2010, the VA responded and announced it would establish a new veteran’s cemetery in Western New York as there where at least 80,000 veterans that resided at least 75-miles from the National Veterans Cemetery in Bath.

In 2019 Schumer secured an additional $10 million that they VA said it would require to complete the cemetery’s Phase 1 construction.

In January of 2018, Schumer called on the VA to complete the final acquisitions of two land parcels of 60-acres and 77-acres respectively in Pembroke, New York, needed to create the cemetery and one month later announced the VA had done so. In 2016, Schumer announced that following his push $36 million in federal funding for the construction phase of the cemetery in Western New York had been secured and included in the final continuing resolution (CR) package.

“Genesee County’s veteran community is extremely proud to be the host-county for the Western New York National Cemetery,” said Doug Doktor, Chairman of the Genesee County Joint Veterans Council. “Now local veterans have our fitting final resting place of honor close to home and our families.”

Jim Neider, OIC of the Joint Veterans Honor Guard of Genesee County and member of the Glenn S. Loomis American Legion Post 332 in Batavia, said, “We are deeply grateful to at long last dedicate the new Western New York National Cemetery and to know that local veterans and their family members will have an eternal home of honor right here in Genesee County.”

Congressman Chris Jacobs thanked veterans for their service and regretted many could not attend the ceremony due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“Let me also say that you were right all along in your efforts to get this cemetery here in WNY, because our region deserves this cemetery, our veterans deserve this cemetery, the family members of our veterans deserve to mourn, pray for and visit their loved one’s in our region not 100 miles away,” Jacobs said. “The veterans and their families earned this right, our WNY region on a per capita basis has far more veterans than so many other areas in our state and our nation again you earned this.”