© 2022 Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

140 Lower Terrace
Buffalo, NY 14202

Mailing Address:
Horizons Plaza P.O. Box 1263
Buffalo, NY 14240-1263

Buffalo Toronto Public Media | Phone 716-845-7000
WBFO Newsroom | Phone: 716-845-7040
Your NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Not a joke, not a hoax, COVID is growing in Erie County, says County Executive

Dr. Peter Winkelstein
University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine
Modeling from UB and Dr. Peter Winkelstein of the Jacobs School of Medicine shows predictions if various COVID restrictions are taken, and how they compare to hospital admissions.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein are pleading with the public to scale down Thanksgiving plans as one of many steps to prevent the county's COVID rates from continuing to rise.

Poloncarz and Burstein said COVID case numbers have risen significantly, including a more than 11% positivity rate in one section of Amherst. They're pleading for cooperation by county residents to prevent the county from moving from the state's "yellow zone" into more restrictive "orange" or "red."

It's everywhere. It's in the urban settings. It's in the suburban settings. It's in the rural settings.

Hours before county leaders hosted a COVID update Thursday afternoon, they released information shared by the New York State Department of Health regarding local positivity and hospitalization rates.

"What I want people to understand is it's everywhere," Poloncarz said. "It's in the urban settings. It's in the suburban settings. It's in the rural settings."

The countywide positivity rate over the past two days was above seven percent, he added. The highest recent local positivity rate was recorded within ZIP code 14228 in Amherst, where 75 new cases were reported in a week. Of those, 30 were traced to housing just off the University at Buffalo campus.

Other reported rates include 9.6% in Elma, 8.8% in Springville, 5.9% in the University District, 5.9% in Elmwood Village including the area near Buffalo State College, and 5.5% in North Buffalo.

Credit Erie County Department of Health

“We're happy that our hospitals are not inundated but we do know that they are getting a little tighter when they include their elective surgery patients, including a couple of hospitals that have less than 10% occupancy available in their overall beds, though ICU beds are better,” Poloncarz said.

But Dr. Burstein then displayed a model prepared by Dr. Peter Finkelstein at UB’s Jacobs School of Medicine.

“The higher line, the highest slope line, is what we would predict what happens if, you know, people continue to let down their guard. They're going out in large crowds, people not masking, people not physical distancing, people gathering for holiday parties, for Thanksgiving, get-togethers, going out to bars the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving and seeing their friends....That is the slope that we will see in the hospitals and you can see an exponential increase in hospital admissions,” said Burstein of the UB model.

On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a large portion of Erie County to be a microcluster "yellow zone.” He followed two days later by announcing new restrictions including 10 p.m. closing times for restaurants and bars, as well as gyms and workout centers.

Credit Erie County Department of Health

Poloncarz said rumors the governor was about to announce Erie County would go into an “orange zone” were false, based on his own conversations with state officials. But he and Burstein are urging the public to keep their guard up, and be prepared to have a scaled-down Thanksgiving holiday, in order to keep the region from being downgraded.

“Stay away from large gatherings. And that could include any type of sporting facilities, it could include any type of parties, and it can include any type of gatherings,” Burstein said. “It can include going out to restaurants or to bars, especially bars. We're seeing, unfortunately, some bars where they're still having too big a crowd. So please, you know, just stay at home. Hunker down. You know, we have to go back to what we were doing in the spring, because that worked. I mean, we know what works and we have to start doing that again.”

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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.
Related Content