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WJTN News Headlines for Jan. 5, 2021

A dramatic spike in the number of new COVID-19 cases in Chautauqua County over the New Year's holiday weekend is raising concern across the county.  County Executive P-J Wendel expressed that concern during yesterday afternoon's reorganizational meeting of the county legislature via Zoom conferencing.  The county say 418 new cases during the three-day weekend... raising the total number to 4,097.  Wendel says the vaccines are coming in... but, he says people also need to continue following COVID-19 guidelines.

Sadly... Wendel adds that there were four new deaths over the weekend... bringing that number to 36.  County officials says 120 of the new cases were in Jamestown... and, 93 were reported in Dunkirk.  There are currently 604 active cases... and, 3,457 have now recovered.

The 120 confirmed cases in Jamestown, though, are not impacting the city workforce as much as it was at one point last month.  Mayor Eddie Sundquist says, though, there are still some employees in quarantine.  Sundquist says most of their COVID cases have recovered, and are back to work.

County Executive Wendel says the use of regional hubs to control the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines has also become a concern.  Speaking Monday morning... he said there have been issues with the distribution of the vaccines as they become available.

Wendel says they are following the first-phase of vaccine distribution.... where hospital and nursing home workers and residents and patients... are getting the first round of shots.  He says vulnerable residents are also receiving them.  Wendel is continuing to urge local residents to follow the COVID-19 safety protocols, including the use of masks... maintaining social distancing... and, washing your hands regularily.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is trying to speed up what has been a sluggish rollout of the coronavirus vaccine by threatening to fine hospitals if they don't finish their first round of inoculations by the end of the week.  Cuomo made the announcement during a press conference... hours before announcing the discovery of the state's first known case a new, more contagious variant of the virus.  Cuomo said later Monday that a man in his 60s who works at a jewelry store in Saratoga Springs tested positive for the variant.  The discovery seemed to underscore the need for more urgency in a vaccination campaign that has, so far, moved at a snail's pace.

The man who has led the Chautauqua County Legislature for the past year has again been elected to that post by fellow lawmakers.  During it's reorganizational meeting via Zoom yesterday afternoon... the legislature unanimously voted Ellery Republican Pierre Chagnon to again be chairman.  Chagnon says it's "an honor" to continue in the post.

Majority and Minority leaders were also announced for the year.  Ashville area Republican, and former legislature chairman, Jay Gould will be majority leader.  Ellicott's Lisa VanStrom will be Assistant Majority Leader.  The Democratic Minority Leader will again be Jamestown's Charles Nazzaro... and, Assistant leader will again be Dunkirk's Bob Bankowski.

Seven on-line stakeholder meetings regarding police reform in the city of Jamestown will be held today through Friday.  That from City Councilwoman Tamu Graham-Reinhardt... who told fellow councilmembers during last night's work session that the sessions are being held in the afternoon and evenings to allow people more times to offer their input.  Graham-Reinhardt says the sessions... which will offer input on a reform plan to be submitted to the state... have gone well so far.

Graham-Reinhardt says, though, that anyone interested needs to register by calling the mayor's office at 483-7600... or by going to the city's website at  Mayor Eddie Sundquist says the Zoom conference sessions will be held: Today at 1 PM... Wednesday at 1, 6 or 7 PM... Thursday at 1 or 7 PM... or Friday at 1 PM.  The city must submit a final plan to New York state for police reforms in the wake of the police-involved death of George Floyd by April 1st.

A city man was arrested during a traffic stop for allegedly possessing a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia on Sunday. State Police say they pulled over the vehicle on Route 60… and, reportedly saw a methamphetamine pipe on the passenger’s lap. Troopers identified the man as 45 year-old Philip Reichardt. A further search of the vehicle found a total of four methamphetamine pipes… a bottle containing meth… a black scale with meth residue and several items used for the packaging and sale of narcotics. Reichardt was sent to the County Jail on two-counts of second-degree criminally using drug paraphernalia… and, one-count fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

A popular January event at Jamestown Community College has been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.  That from Heather Morris, Director of Alumni Relations who made the announcement early Monday. 

The mystery is traditionally held the last weekend of January and is a major fund raiser for the JCC Alumni Association.  Morris says other plans are in the works that can be sent out on-line.  The Alumni Association hopes to resume its annual mystery when pandemic conditions ease, and crowds can gather again.