LACKAWANNA, NY (WKBW) — “For whom the bell tolls" means to ring church bells when a person dies.
For a full minute Wednesday bells rang out during the noon hour at Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna to remember and honor the more than 335,000 lives lost to COVID in the United States this year.
“So when those bells ring — it's a powerful reminder that we are more united than we are divided,” said Monsignor David LiPuma, pastor, OLV.
LiPuma said they wanted the bells to be a “source of comfort.”
“And I’m sorry if I get emotional, the Basilica is a beautiful place in it of itself — it’s a place where people come to find solace and comfort,” remarked LiPuma. “And everyone is going to be thinking of about their own loved ones and their own losses, but also that they need to hold their loved ones a little bit tighter.”
An Erie County Health Department chart tracks the death rates from march to this month. A couple of weeks ago Erie County surpassed 1,000 COVID deaths.
“It has been a bad month in Erie County,” declared Thomas Russo, chief of Infectious Disease, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo.
Dr. Russo has been keeping a close watch on these numbers.
“The COVID deaths seem to be on the rise and seems worse than it was in the spring,” asked Buckley.
“Eileen, unfortunately that is true. As the number of cases increase, unfortunately, so will bad outcomes and we've had a steady increase in the number of cases really from October - really through this month,” replied Dr. Russo.
In April, Erie County reporter 286 deaths, so far this December there are 251, but experts say it could higher before the end of this week, which would make December the deadliest month.
“Unfortunately the number of deaths is going to be proportionate to a degree — to the number of new cases,” Dr. Russo said.
But Dr. Russo said the good news is compared to the rest of New York State, there is improvement in Erie County with the positivity rate decreasing.
“However, we still have too many cases and inevitably we are going to have some deaths as a result of it,” Russo explained.
Russo said Erie County did well in from the Thanksgiving holiday, but now the wait is on to see if the Christmas holiday and upcoming New Year’s holiday create any spike in numbers.
“It sad and frustrating because we know how to prevent new infections. If everyone follows the public health measures there would be far fewer cases,” Russo declared.
Dr. Russo pointed to the vaccine as a promise for better times ahead.
"We are now in the home stretch,” Russo noted.
But Russo said we must remain vigilant.
“This is not the stage to let your guard down and try to avoid getting infected at all costs,” Russo replied.
Niagara County reported three more deaths as of Wednesday, bringing the total deaths to 136.
Lori Salvatore of Wheatfield lost her 23-year-old daughter Tatiana Moore in July. COVID destroyed the young woman's lungs.
“We feel like we got robbed — we feel like — we did everything right and we still lost our daughter,” Salvatore responded.
Very grim numbers, but with the New Year just days away many are hoping that 2021 brings better times ahead.