Erie County arranging defense tactics to curb spread of COVID-19 in the county

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Posted at 7:48 PM, Dec 07, 2021

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — Medical experts are monitoring the new Omicron variant, as it spreads across the country.

Erie County is seeing a significant increase in COVID-19 cases throughout the area.

The latest data from Erie County shows the highest daily total of COVID-19 cases ever reported, since the beginning of the pandemic.

The spike furthering the concern about the impact on our local hospitals.

Erie County health leaders are pushing for those, who do not feel well to get tested.

Erie County's daily positivity rate sits at a little over 9%, with the seven-day rate close to 11%.

Because of the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases, one defense tactic the county health department is using is focusing on vaccinations in Buffalo Public Schools.

Health commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said this is a priority.

Dr. Burstein said the county and CONECT, which consists of community health workers, have teamed up with the district for COVID-19 vaccine clinics.

So far, about 1,000 vaccines have been administered to students, staff and family members through these clinics since August 2021. Eight-hundred of those since Nov. 1, 2021.

Erie County executive, Mark Poloncarz said, "Age groups under 14 years had the highest positivity rates of 13.5% so unfortunately, children have the highest rates of transmission in our county.

"We also have new vaccine sites throughout the community. Again, we want to make sure that every single person in Erie County has access to a COVID-19 vaccine. As Dr. Russo and the County Executive mentioned, this is our key out of the pandemic, this is what's keeping us safe and healthy and it's very critical that we all get that third dose, if possible, before we all convene in the Christmas holiday," Erie County Department of Health commissioner, Dr. Gale Burstein added.

The county health department said it is also continuing to also provide more vaccine sites for residents to get the COVID-19 shot.

The current schedule that runs through the end of December includes sites in Buffalo, the Northtowns and Southtowns.

Poloncarz said high rates are being seen across the entire county in the city, suburbs and rural areas.

Poloncarz also said the county is in very dangerous, uncharted territory.

County officials said children are largely driving these numbers, with the highest transmission rates, according to the 7-day case count data.

Poloncarz said, "Officials have no power whatsoever to change that. The Erie County Department of Health is the dully authorized entity, with regards to inspecting of restaurants, bars and other facilities, as well as ensuring the safety and welfare of our community. There are no town or city departments of health. They don't have them by law. Maybe this is one of the reasons why, but they do not have them. The City of Buffalo does not have a department of health, but the Erie County Department of Health is the provider for our greater community."

Health and county officials stated masks are just one of the strategies to protect yourself from the infectious virus.

Poloncarz said he hopes the number of cases will start to decrease under phase one.

Otherwise, he said the county will have to move into "Phase 2", which would require proof of vaccination for all indoor dining, bars and entertainment venues.