It’s the ‘tale' of two counties — Erie and Monroe counties are seeing COVID rates spike at a rapid pace.
“We are in a fourth spike — there is no doubt about it,” declared Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Executive.
“Here's the stark reality — the clear majority of people hospitalized for COVID are not vaccinated,” remarked Adam Bello, Monroe County Executive.
County Executive Poloncarz says rates are even higher than last spring.
“The positivity rate was 9.7% — the highest it's been in many, many months,” Poloncarz noted.
"Our total of 714 cases in one day on November 12 is extreme,” stated Dr. Gale Burstein, commissioner, Erie County Department of Health.
Health leaders from both Erie and Monroe counties held a COVID briefing Monday to get the word out that it is time for both communities to clamp down.
They are calling for anyone eligible to get vaccinated to stop the spread. That includes children, 5 to 17 years of age.
"Since November 1, we've had ten children admitted to the hospital. Seven of them are less than five years old and all of them contracted COVID from a family member, who was positive with COVID, who was unvaccinated, whether that be a parent or an older children,” explained Dr. Stephen Turkovich, chief medical officer, Oishei Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Turkovich says they are also seeing more children admitted to the pediatric ICU. Five were admitted this month.
But leaders in both counties say they are not ready to implement mask mandates right now. Instead they say they will be watching closely, relying on everyone to take precautions.
“Would you at least consider going back to mask mandate for grocery stores or some of the businesses?” Buckley asked Poloncarz.
“If we see these numbers continue to rise and we're seeing what would be considered lack of fellow patriotism and fellow believe in our neighbors, by people not wearing masks, then it's an action I’m willing to take,” replied Poloncarz.
Dr. Burstein noted that contact tracing in the county is indicating many of the new COVID cases were transmitted at social gatherings, such as a party or in a bar.
“A mask mandate will help, however, where people are getting infected, a mask mandate may not touch them,” Burstein explained.
But Burstein said everyone needs to take responsibility.
“This is a life or death situation,” stated Burstein.
Burstein said take control of the situation and know the status of those you are socializing with and keep parties small. She urges getting vaccinated and undergo COVID testing.
The concerns of high COVID cases in the region is also causing an increase in hospitalized on an already strained healthcare system.
“Right now, we have 505 inpatients in a hospital built for 456 patients. We’re at 110% capacity, of that about 10% of them is COVID positive,” described Dr. Michael Mineo, chief medical officer, Buffalo General Hospital and Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital.
Hospital leaders say the system can’t handle much more.
Hans Cassagnol, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Physician Executive, Catholic Health, said the increase in the number of COVID cases is “drastically” understated.
“The vast majority of those numbers are actually the unvaccinated,” remarked Dr. Cassagnol.
Dr. Cassagnol also had an important message for pregnant women, urging they get vaccinated.
“The pregnancy populations is one of the most vulnerable populations for COVID-19. If there is a capacity to get that population vaccinated it would save us tremendously — both in terms of maternity morbidity and mortality and neonatal morbidity and mortality,” Cassagnol said.
Leaders also say if you are ready for a booster, you should get the shot.
Poloncarz says Erie County clinics will give people age 18 years and older a booster dose as long as it has been six months since a second Pfizer or Moderna dose and two months since the J&J dose.