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Spike in COVID cases in schools in Erie County

"We have to worry about our kids"
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Posted at 6:49 PM, Apr 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-06 18:53:19-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — COVID cases are rising fast among young adults and school age children.

The Erie County Department of Health revealed new COVID school numbers Tuesday during a COVID news briefing.

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Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Health Commissioner, at Tuesday's COVID briefing.

“We have to worry about our kids. We have to play it safe,” said Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Health Commissioner.

COVID cases have spiked among pre-K through 12th grade at schools in Erie County.

Dr. Burstein says there were a little more than 500-cases reported in schools for the week ending Saturday.

County leaders saying these are "dramatic increases" in schools.

Burstein said the new cases are a “huge” jump from the week before and most of the cases were among students and not school staffers.

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Erie County Department of Health graph showing school cases on rise.

“Do you know if they were transmitted in the schools?” Buckley asked Burstein.

“Unfortunately I think the take home message is that there are multiple sources of infection for our youth and where ever they are — at home, in sports, at part time jobs — so we really have to be vigilant,” replied Burstein.

But a driving force behind the increase in younger COVID cases is youth sports.

The county health department says hockey accounted for 40-percent of paused teams. 24-teams are on pause with six on quarantine. 165 teams paused by ECDOH since February 1.

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Erie County Department of Health graph.

And youth sports COVID clusters are not just happening in hockey.

“We’re seeing a lot in hockey. We've been seeing lately outbreaks in dance studios, cheerleading, football, volleyball, basketball — there's no sport that is safe,” Burstein declared.

"We are not in a great situation," noted Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Executive.

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Erie County Department of Health graph.

Poloncarz said the county appears to be in "a new wave" of the virus and rates in the county are three times worse than what the CDC considers as 'high risk'.

“I still think we're going to have a struggle over the next couple of weeks. We're going to see the impact of spring break — people have been traveling,” stated Dr. Thomas Russo, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.

Russo said youth in-door sports without masks and four highly contagious variants are trigging the youth cases.

“Are we going to see another rise and is that the wrong time to do anything different at schools?," questioned Buckley.

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Dr. Thomas Russo in a Zoom interview on youth COVID cases.

“At this point, because of our high case rate, CDC would not recommend going from six to three feet, so I think the first step is for us to get our cases down,” Russo responded.

Dr. Russo said it would not be a good time for schools to add more in-person learning until the threat eases.

County leaders say they will not be making any changes at schools or in youth sports at this time and continue to recommend schools follow the New York State safety guidelines.

The county health commissioner noted there is an increase in testing among those under the age of 20 who are testing positive for COVID.

Dr. Russo also noted that as more of the population continues to get vaccinated, older generations are now more protected from the virus and younger adults and children are getting sick.

“At this point, they're accounting for a larger percentage because most of them haven't had the luxury of getting vaccinated yet,” Russo noted.