Since Niagara County officials started announcing the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the community, some residents have taken to social media to decry what they perceive to be a lack of more detailed information.

Out in the general public, there still seems to be some confusion about the reality of our present situation.

Community spread is, unfortunately, now part of the landscape here.

Knowing where a person who tested positive previously visited will not protect you or your family from coming in contact with the novel coronavirus.

Over the weekend, county health officials noted that five newly confirmed positive cases had no identifiable connections.

As a result, the county will no longer undertake trace contacting for cases. Unfortunately, now that the virus has spread to the wider community there's no one case that can be connected to the next.

As Niagara County Public Health Director Dan Stapleton and others in similar positions in neighboring Erie County and at the state level have been saying for days, everyone should assume they are at risk of contracting COVID-19 in any place at any time.

This is the reality of our present situation and it is not the fault of already taxed employees of any county health department.

Another unfair criticism that has been leveled on social media involves the pace of testing in Niagara County.

Let's be clear: This problem has not been due to a lack of commitment on the county's part.

As a frustrated Stapleton has mentioned publicly on numerous occasions, the problem is the lack of access to adequate testing supplies.

“I have heard some say that our numbers are merely a function of our testing and if we could do testing at the rate we would like, there would be many, many more positives," Stapleton said this past Saturday. "To that, I say, I absolutely agree."

Niagara and Erie county leaders have been providing daily updates on testing, positive cases and other virus-related matters.

In the absence of tracing down individual cases, Niagara County officials are exploring another option: the development of a mapping system to give some idea of where individuals who have tested positive reside. The so-called "heat map" is inspired by national heat maps of COVID-19 cases that have been developed for other states.

These are unprecedented and challenging times.

To date, we feel confident in saying that Stapleton and others dealing with this issue are doing the best they can, with limited staffing and resources, to keep the public informed.

All of this leads the conversation back to the same place where it has been for many days now.

As public health professionals keep saying: Exercise social distancing, wash your hands, stay home whenever possible and do your part to try to tamp down the spread in deference to elderly residents, other at-risk groups and health care workers who will be dealing with the sick at area hospitals.

"The community needs to act as if COVID-19 is everywhere because in all likelihood, it is," Stapleton said.

We hope all residents, even those who have been critical of the county's handling of this situation so far, at least understand this all-important point.

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