COVID deaths rising in Erie County, as Omicron subsides
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.
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."