County health director talks COVID-19, testing issues

Daniel J. Stapleton

LOCKPORT — Niagara County Director of Health Dan Stapleton said that his recommendation for the holidays includes what he has been stressing continuously: get a vaccination, get a booster if you can, avoid large crowds, socially distance yourself and continue to wear masks.

This last precaution may come as a surprise to residents who, unlike their counterparts in Erie County, are not mandated to wear them.

“My point of view is there are people on both extremes of the political spectrum who are against it for different reasons,” Stapleton said. “But it’s the people in the middle who are getting vaccinated, who are taking this serious. That’s the overwhelming majority of Americans.

“I don’t think it’s a political thing. I think the people get confused, so I look at the public health leaders when I make my decisions. Whether it’s the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), NIH (National Institutes of Health), World Health Organizations or even the New York State Department of Health. I look at those experts to help guide those thoughts.”

Stapleton said they are still encouraging people to wear masks. He said these are “common sense” precautions.

“Legislators ask my opinion as a public health director and I give them my opinion on it,” he said. “No one is against masks. I don’t speak for the legislature, but I think that they’re against mandating of mask wearing, but that’s a policy decision, not mine.”

Stapleton also talked about variants such as the delta variant, which is the only variant that has made it to New York according to testing data, and the new omicron variant that has now been detected in California.

“There has been multiple new strains of Covid,” he said. “Delta and the new one, omicron …  but there are numerous strains of the original virus that haven’t got people’s attention. I think it’s too early to say (about omicron). Whether it’s easier to contract. We had the same issue with delta.”

In the end, Stapleton stressed that getting vaccinated, even a flu vaccination, is the best course to strengthen one’s immune system. His department is also still fighting back by organizing vaccine clinics across the county, which can be signed up for online at niagaracounty.com.

So far, 2,500 school kids between the ages of five and 11, a whopping 15.4% of the age’s population in Niagara County, have received the vaccines. Stapleton said he was hopeful after seeing entire families coming in to the clinics. Parents getting boosters and kids getting their first shot.

Of the 45 individuals in hospitals fighting COVID, Stapleton said, the majority are not vaccinated. He was also shocked by the number of deaths claimed by the virus this week in Niagara County, 13, of which only four were fully vaccinated.

“That to me is a shocking statement,” Stapleton said. “These are avoidable.”

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