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Erie County sets one-day high for positive COVID tests

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Dec. 2 marked new, dubious highs for Erie County, with the highest one-day number of new infections and highest hospitalizations since the COVID pandemic arrived earlier this year.

Health officials say 771 new cases were identified Wednesday, out of 9,973 tests. Throughout the Western New York region, 446 COVID patients were hospitalized, including 379 within Erie County facilities. Nine people died of COVID that day, according to officials.

"We've had a significant uptick in deaths in the month of November, with the vast majority of them occurring in the last two weeks" said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. "Most of these occurred in the hospital setting but some occurred outside, including nursing homes and group homes, or as we've since confirmed with a number of cases, individuals at their own homes."

Through November 29, 869 deaths of Erie County residents are blamed on COVID-19. Poloncarz grimly predicted the county could soon exceed 1,000 COVID-related deaths.

He presented a video during his Friday afternoon briefing showing nationwide trends, with states such as Wisconsin turning a deeper red as the video progressed.

"This is really damning when you look at it, with regards to the growth in the United States of COVID-19, cases in the counties and those are all the counties of the United States," he said.  "You see it now. We're in a really bad spot as it pertains to the country. We're seeing tremendous growth."

Hospitals in Erie County are estimated at just under 80 percent capacity. Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein reminded the public that, as per instructions from the governor, elective surgeries in the county's hospitals have been suspended.

"Instead of people having elective surgery, that need one or two nights, overnights or having complications taking up those beds, we need to keep those beds free," she said. "They're open beds because we're seeing so many more cases of COVID-19 and also having the staff available, because some of these patients can be very, very sick and require a lot of intensive staffing.”

Elective procedures are still permitted within ambulatory surgical centers, Dr. Burstein noted. She suggests if one's center has not called to cancel a scheduled procedure, consider it still moving ahead as scheduled.

Poloncarz, meanwhile, was scheduled to participate in a meeting with President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris to discuss COVID and the coming vaccine. He reminded news media that Donald Trump remains President of the United States until Jan. 20, thus any policy formed through discussions with Biden's team would not take effect until his inauguration.

When asked about raising public awareness and confidence in a forthcoming COVID vaccine, Poloncarz declared he will receive it when it is his turn.

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