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COVID deaths rising in Erie County, as Omicron subsides

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz's provides the latest COVID-19 numbers in a briefing Tuesday.
Erie County
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz's provides the latest COVID-19 numbers in a briefing Tuesday.

COVID-19 cases in Erie County are sliding rapidly, as Omicron is starting to run its course. However, County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the death toll is rising and it's rising among younger people. In a briefing Tuesday, he said that reflects the ranks of the unvaccinated across the county.

Poloncarz said 105 people have died in the county through last Thursday.

"We've had more people die in the month of January under the age of 40 than in any other prior month during the pandemic and it tied, under the age of 50, the number of people who died in this month," he said, "and we're not even done with this month yet. It was through Jan. 20. So we still have 11 days of data and we know more people have died in Erie County."

Poloncarz said families are mourning people who should not have died if they had been fully vaccinated and there are vaccines and testing available.

Mortality data through Jan. 20, 2022
Erie County Health Department
Mortality data 2020 and 2021
Erie County Health Department

The county executive also commented on a court decision Tuesday about the state's mask mandate, saying it doesn't affect the county mandate, which will continue, including in schools. Poloncarz said the county's mask mandate and the state Education Department's guidance for schools are under different legal action.

"There's nothing in the decision that affects local emergency orders. There's nothing in the decision that affects New York State Executive Law Section 24, where counties and other local governments derive their powers," Poloncarz said. "The mask and vaccine mandate in New York City, that's still valid. The mask mandate in Erie County, it is still valid."

County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said schools are also pushing to keep kids in class by participating in the test-to-stay effort.

"Eleven schools that have already started offering test-to-stay and testing students that qualify and staff members that qualify for the test-to-stay program and have submitted some data to us," Burstein said. "We also know that almost all the public school districts, except for maybe about a handful, and 24 private schools have expressed interest in participating."

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.