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Hochul: New COVID-19 cases appearing in WNY are coming from Florida

State officials say the new cases, while very low, could present a new challenge in the battle against the coronavirus if new cases start to multiply.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — New York State officials say they are seeing new COVID-19 cases in places locally where the virus is not normally seen. According to Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, there is no cause for concern with regard to these new cases because they are low in total — only two or three cases in certain spots. 

Hochul, the point person on Western New York's reopening, says so-called "snowbirds," people who live in warmer parts of the country during the winter, are returning back to Western New York with the coronavirus.

She specifically mentions these folks are coming back from Florida to Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties, where the infection rate is low. 

On Monday, 2 On Your Side had tough questions for the lieutenant governor.

"Should they be in quarantine? What else should happen to make sure that you're able to identify in fact, whether those folks are carrying the virus?" Asked 2 On Your Side's Jeff Preval.

"The governor addressed this and said he's looking at all the options and that's a possibility, but we have not come to that conclusion that's the best route right now but I am recommending that people do get tested," Hochul said.

And Hochul recommends people close to those who are returning to Western New York to also get tested for the virus.

She says these cases were learned through testing and contact tracing.

Hochul says both the Finger Lakes and Western New York regions are on track to reach Phase 4 soon. Phase 4 includes art galleries, movie theaters, youth sports, and museums. 

The state says Phase 4 guidance will be released over the next few days.

The infection rate in Western New York and the Finger Lakes continues to hover around 1 percent, which the state looks at before making a call on whether a region should advance to another phase. The state has released guidance for colleges and universities but not for other places like museums and theaters. 

"Whether it's scaling back on the capacity requirements, of course making sure everyone is wearing their masks and that there's social distancing no matter what the event is so that information is being developed right now, it truly is and it will be released not all at once necessarily but over the next few days," Hochul said.

We're still not sure on when malls and gyms will be allowed to reopen. 

Local institutions such as the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Albright Knox and Shea's are all on the same stage that need to change the look and feel of large, indoor places where people gather.  

2 On Your Side had the chance to speak virtually with Dennis Kois, the executive director of the Burchfield Penney.

Because the Burchfield is on the campus of SUNY Buffalo State, the campus has not been granted a reopening date by the state. But, when the art gallery does reopen it will be open on weekends at first and admission will be free as a way to encourage people to visit the museum. 

The Burchfield plans to change its look to adjust to the new norm.

"How do you hang a show of artworks with sufficient distance between the paintings and the sculptures to encourage social distancing, we can't hang art the way we used to so we have to change the way we think of our spaces our shows," Kois said.

The art gallery has been working on plans for social distancing, with markers on the floor. Employees and guests will have to wear masks at all times, but not when they're eating or drinking. There will be hand sanitizer stations throughout and the museum will be cashless.  

The Burchfield says it has looked at the reopening of museums throughout the country and Europe to learn best practices. 

When the Burchfield does return, it will start with a show called "What's Going On?" which will be inspired by issues faced during the pandemic and racial injustice.

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