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The unvaccinated have at least a 10x greater chance of COVID infection, but that was before Omicron

Marian Hetherly

While it may seem anyone can get COVID, around two-thirds of the eligible people in New York State are fully vaccinated. That leaves the rest with much, much higher risk of infection.

Dr. Peter Winkelstein, executive director of the University at Buffalo's Institute for Healthcare Informatics, admits we will never really know how many New Yorkers have been infected. Some don't even feel sick. Others are sick, but don't think it's bad and not worth being tested. Neither is a category in state statistics.

That leaves the rest who are tested and found infected — 171,000 in Erie and Niagara Counties alone — and there is the slowly rising total of the dead. State figures released Wednesday reported more dead from COVID in Erie County that day than in Manhattan.

Winkelstein said there's a narrowing range of who is likely to be infected.

"What we're seeing in the hospital is the unvaccinated and the vulnerable. Those are the people who are largely going to the hospital, the unvaccinated and the vulnerable. So the people who have not had the vaccine and then the people who are particularly vulnerable to getting ill from COVID. That includes people with immunocompromised conditions, of course, but also includes the elderly," he said.

Winkelstein said the unvaccinated have at least a 10-times greater chance of infection — and that may rise with Omicron. Some of the vaccinated can get breakthrough COVID cases, although they won't be very sick.

"New York City is having a huge spike, almost certainly due to Omicron," he said. "Omicron is unbelievably contagious, about as contagious a virus as you've ever seen. It's going to go though everybody. And you really don't want to get sick from COVID. Then you need to protect yourself, because Omicron is going to come and get ya."

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.