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Erie County COVID cases skyrocket 80% in one week

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein, wearing pink, stands in front of an Erie County backdrop
Erie County
Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein on Tuesday said she is "very, very worried" looking at this summer's COVID-19 cases.

The COVID story of this summer is the skyrocketing number of residents aged 20-39 and serious problems among those under 17, according to the latest update from the Erie County Health Department.

Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said Tuesday it's a mix of the unvaccinated and those who are spending the summer having fun in the sun.

"We know that youth between the ages of 12 and 17, they are able to get vaccinated. However, we haven't had such great uptake," Burstein said. "Children between the ages of 12 and 15, only about 45% of them have had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and then people between the ages of 16 and 25, only about 58%."

A graph with a gray background showing the rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Erie County
NYS Health Department and Erie County hospitals
Erie County hospitalization data for June 23-August 1, 2021.

The health commissioner said the one good thing is a very, very low death rate from the virus — two people last week — but there are hundreds of young people in quarantine from summer activities: not a good sign for school that's starts in a month and still no vaccine for those under 12.

"We are very, very worried," Burstein said. "Just looking at what's happening this summer with COVID-19 in summer school and camps, we are seeing a lot of COVID-19 cases reported to us and we're seeing even more, like hundreds of people have been put into quarantine this summer, because of exposure in summer school or summer camp."

Among those a little older, their COVID diagnoses are pulling up the county average in a bad way. While the overall county average is 58 cases per 100,000 population, the rate for those 20-29 is 104 and the rate for those 30-39 is 81. That's nearly double the overall number of cases from the previous week, more than doubled for youth age 17 and younger.

For the week ending July 31, there were 535 new COVID cases among Erie County residents — an 80% increase from the previous week’s total of 297 cases and a 10-fold increase in the past six weeks.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.