Wydysh Leads Unified Response to Coronavirus Threat As Niagara County Lawmakers Work Across Party Lines

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Legislator Chair Becky Wydysh speaking during a press conference on Sunday, March 15th, 2020.


By: Tony Farina

Working in a bipartisan way from the beginning of the coronavirus threat, the Niagara County Legislature is doing its best to stay on top of the threat, according to Chairman Rebecca Wydysh (R-Lewiston), the first woman to hold the chairmanship of Niagara’s legislature.

 “We are working together in a bipartisan way to try and keep our citizens informed and to stay ahead of it (coronavirus) as best we can,” Wydysh told the Niagara Reporter.

There were no confirmed cases in Niagara County as of Monday but the virus has struck in neighboring counties, including seven cases in Erie County.  There are 12 people under house quarantine in Niagara County but county health officials believe it is just a matter of time.

Jesse Gooch (R-North Tonawanda) praised the collective response of Niagara County officials and his fellow legislators on both sides of the aisle, and he had particular praise for Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton for his work in helping to keep the public informed of necessary precautions in the face of the coronavirus threat.

“We’ve worked together across the board to keep citizens informed, and the legislature has moved with calm and grace to serve our residents,” said Gooch.

“It is day to day right now,” said Gooch, “and we’ll just have to see what tomorrow brings.”  

For Gooch and Wydysh and many others across Western New York and beyond, nobody really knows what tomorrow will bring in the face of the pandemic that has shut down life as we know it with all the cancellations and closings and uncertainty.   Everything has changed in the blink of an eye, and there is no telling when the threat will end and life will return to normal.


Niagara County Health Director Daniel Stapleton speaking during the press conference on Sunday, March 15th, 2020.


As part of the reponse by lawmakers, Chairman Wydysh has declared a state of emergency in Niagara County which gives officials the ability to implement public safety measures and to continue to receive state and federal resources should they be needed.

It also gives the chairman the ability to act quickly in response to any emergency that may develop in the uncertain future of the pandemic.

“We need to make sure to coordinate with towns and cities and community organizations at this time,” said Wydysh.  “We’re deluged with calls and questions and we must all stay connected.”

She added that the state has established a hot line for people with questions related to the virus attack, and the number is 888-364-3065.   There is also a 24-hour Niagara County mental health hot line, 285-3515.

The good news in all of this, if there is any, is that the legislature, which is controlled by Republicans 10 to 5, has worked across party lines to deal with the crisis and help the public in the face of the shutdown of their normal lives.

“We’ll keep the public informed through social media and the news media,” said Gooch, and that’s probably the most important responsibility that lawmakers face in this once-in-a-lifetime crisis the likes of which has never been seen around here before 2020.

As of the date of this article, the first confirmed case of Coronavirus was just reported in Niagara County. Legislator Gooch believes communicating with the public has been a positive thus far for the county.

“Public Information Officer Kevin Schuler has done an amazing job handling this fast-moving situation with grace and speed,” said Gooch. “He has been informing the legislature of any and all press releases as soon as he receives them and has been on top of all media to keep the public informed when stories break.”

The work for officials now is to continue to make their best efforts to stay ahead of the virus and to keep the public informed on what’s going on locally and beyond.

As Gooch said, all hands are on deck in the face of the crisis and Niagara County officials, like governments near and far, are doing their best to confront the threat and get through it.  And they are doing it together.


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