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Different COVID rates in NYC and Erie County attributed to attitudes on masks, vaccines

A masked man fills a hypodermic needle
Max Schulte

Upon a review of recent COVID infection rates, a startling comparison emerges: The seven-day positivity rate for Erie County is 7.0; New York City's sits at 1.0.

After a recent visit to New York City, Dr. Nancy Nielsen, Senior Associate Dean for Health Policy at UB's Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, returned with some enlightening perspective.

"The contrast you see between what you see in our area and the Big Apple was amazing. New York City has mandated vaccination for admission to so many things. Theaters. Museums. Hotels," said Nielsen.

"We walked on the streets. Most people were wearing masks just walking along the streets....And nobody was complaining. They were going about their business, masked."

That attitude, Nielsen says, isn't seen much locally.

"Practically, nobody masks on the streets and depending on where you live and shop you don't see many people wearing masks in retail stores or supermarkets."

Nielsen cites two problems that are contributing to the region's high COVID infection rates.

"There are a lot of unvaccinated people here and everybody has sort of gone back to near normal and not wearing masks indoors in public," Nielsen said.

"That's the problem and that's the difference."

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Jay joined Buffalo Toronto Public Media in 2008 and has been local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" ever since. In June, 2022, he was named one of the co-hosts of WBFO's "Buffalo, What's Next."

A graduate of St. Mary's of the Lake School, St. Francis High School and Buffalo State College, Jay has worked most of his professional career in Buffalo. Outside of public media, he continues in longstanding roles as the public address announcer for the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League and as play-by-play voice of Canisius College basketball.