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Infectious Diseases Expert: "Our behavior as a community controls the number of cases"

Posted at 12:07 AM, Aug 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-26 00:07:43-04

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — Questions continue in the Western New York community as several COVID-19 positive percentages for the region are higher than state averages.

"The sky is not falling," said Dr. Thomas Russo. The infectious diseases expert is the Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo.

From Saturday to Monday, Erie County saw daily averages of 2.3%, 1.4% and 1.5% respectively. Meanwhile, the state averages for those days are significantly lower at 0.77% Saturday, 0.66% Sunday and 0.94% on Monday.

"Western New York we have a caution flag," said Governor Andrew Cuomo at a press conference Monday morning. He said several clusters of cases contributed to problem.

"Not a cause for serious concern, but it is a caution flag and we're looking at it," said Cuomo.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Nikki DeMentri asked Dr. Russo: "How is the Western New York region doing right now with COVID?"
Dr. Russo answered: "All in all, I think we're still doing pretty well. I appreciate there's a concern of an increased percent that have tested positive over the last few days, but I think it's important to realize a single day percentage is not as meaningful as percentages overtime."

Dr. Russo believes a rolling seven-day average is a "more accurate reflection" of what is happening.

"We've sort of been isolating and sort of been at the same level now for about the last five weeks or so," said Dr. Russo. Moving forward, the infectious diseases expert says trends will be the most important piece of data to study. He said Erie County has seen rolling seven-day averages between 1.1% and 1.4% over the last five weeks.

"And that's really quite respectable. Being under two percent is great and in fact, we would be envious of almost any other part of the country," said Dr. Russo.

For Dr. Russo, "each week is a new week" and that is why he feels it is important those living in Erie County and Western New York do not fall into COVID-19 fatigue.

"At the end of the day, our behavior as a community controls the number of cases we have," said Dr. Russo.