BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Erie County Department of Health announced on Wednesday that the county had moved from the CDC's low COVID-19 Community Level to the medium community level, following an increase in new cases.
"It's due to the combination of looser restrictions, the highly infectious Omicron sub-variants that are circulating, and people gathering, doing social catch-up indoors with this cooler weather where the virus spreads so readily," Dr. Thomas Russo, the Chief of Infectious Disease at the Jacobs School of Medicine at the University at Buffalo, said.
The health department reported 219 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 Erie County residents over the last seven days. According to CDC guidance, counties with a seven-day new case rate of 200 or more per 100,000 people move into a medium or high community level.
The community levels are used to determine recommended individual and community prevention strategies. At a medium community level, the CDC gives the following guidance for individuals and households:
- Individuals with household or social contact to someone at high risk for severe disease should consider self-testing before contact and wearing a mask when indoors with them.
- Maintain improved ventilation while indoors.
- Follow CDC guidance for isolation and quarantine, including getting tested if you're exposed or show symptoms.
The CDC recommends the following to local governments at the medium community level:
- Distribute vaccines to acheive high community vaccination rates.
- Consider implementing testing for people exposed to COVID-19 at work or school.
- Ensure access to testing either at facilities or using at-home test kits.
- Implement prevention measures at correctional facilities, shelters and other "high-risk congregate settings."
The medium community level designation does not lead to any changes in mask, vaccination or testing requirements. All guidance from the CDC is a recommendation.
"I don't think there's going to be any mask mandates... I think that's largely due to the fact that though we're seeing this increase in cases, all be it far less than the holiday Omicron wave, fortunately, hospitalizations have been down. They've increased slightly, but not to the same extent we're seeing in cases," Dr. Russo said.
At a high community level, the CDC would recommend wearing a mask indoors in public regardless of vaccination status.
The CDC uses the following factors to determine a COVID-19 community level:
- New COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days
- New COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 people in the past seven days
- Seven-day average percentage of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients
As of Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m., the CDC website had not been updated to reflect the new community level declared by the Erie County Department of Health.