BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — With COVID cases hitting record numbers in Erie County and New York State, you might be wondering how to safely ring in the New Year.
“Obviously it's critical that if anyone is symptomatic they should stay home and not partake in any of the upcoming celebrations,” remarked Dr. Thomas Russo, infectious disease specialist, Jacobs School of Medicine.
With many planning to attend the annual downtown Buffalo Ball Drop to ring in 2022, Dr. Russo says unless you are fully vaccinated and boosted, you should avoid large gatherings New Year’s Eve.
“I appreciate that not everyone has been boosted and a means for additional protection, if you are able to get your hands on those rapid tests, test the day of the gathering and make sure everyone is negative,” stated Russo.
In the Village of Lancaster a ball drop will be held for the first tie in 20-years and the mayor says she believes being outdoors should be safe for everyone.
“We’re hoping to create an environment that we can celebrate, but also be safe on the aftermath in that everyone can continue to be healthy with their families,” explained Lynne Rude, mayor, Village of Lancaster.
Mayor Ruda says they are planning a ball drop on West Main and North Aurora streets that will begin Friday at 10 p.m. with a midnight ball drop and fireworks to follow.
“We’ve been working with our emergency services throughout the planning of this event and make sure we are going to be doing everything that keeps everybody safe and we're confident we will be able to do that,” said Mayor Rudy.
Ruda says it's important for those planning to attend to use common sense and consider wearing masks.
“I think that the safer the better and if we can keep everybody safe — that would be best,” replied Ruda. “I think that people need to choose what's right for them and their families and so we have this opportunity. We’re hoping to Facebook live stream the actual ball drop so there will be an opportunity for people to still participate if they're not comfortable coming to an outdoor event.”
“What about mask wearing if you are at these outdoor events?" Buckley questioned.
“If you're outdoors, in close quarters with a large number of individuals for a long period of time and particularly with the Delta and Omicron variants, where individuals that are infectious shed large number of particles — you're still at risk for potentially getting infected, so by wearing a high quality, well fitting mask that will afford an extra degree of protection,” responded Dr. Russo.
“How worried are you that these gatherings are going on as planned? Buckley asked.
“I think that we saw a large increase in cases after the Christmas gatherings and likewise we are going to see a further increase in cases after the New Year’s celebrations,” replied Dr. Russo.
Dr. Russo says even with research showing Omicron appears to lead to less severe illness compared to other COVID variants, you should take it very seriously.
“Please be careful. Please be safe. Please do not take Omicron and this particular wave we are experiencing lightly,” noted Dr. Russo.