'This is a very powerful intervention': Erie County leaders and health professionals share progress in regional COVID trends

Self-test at home results
Posted at 6:43 PM, Dec 21, 2021

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — Another sign of progress in this fight against COVID.

The Erie County Health Department shared a chart today showing a dip in the total number of hospital patients.

Across the state, 28 hospitals now have limited capacity. This is down from 32 hospitals that were nearly full, just weeks ago.

Seven local hospitals still have a limited capacity and that list now includes Buffalo General Hospital. The list of the seven local hospitals is as follows:

  • Buffalo General Medical Center
  • Erie County Medical Center
  • Mercy Hospital of Buffalo
  • Mount St Marys Hospital and Health Center
  • Sisters of Charity Hospital
  • St. Mary's Healthcare
  • UPMC Chautauqua at WCA

While cases are down in Erie County, health leaders expect an uptick with the threat of omicron looming over the region this holiday season.

Erie County leaders state the 7-day case rate has decreased from the previous two weeks.

According to county executive Mark Poloncarz, the latest data shows the Western New York region is doing better than other regions in the state.
Mark Poloncarz said, "We're happy to see this but we're not sure that it's necessarily going to last with omicron because omicron appears to be much more transmissible than delta and the prior alphas- the original variant of COVID-19, 3 to 4 times is more transmissible."

The county is on standby to receive a "significant supply" at-home COVID test kits so that residents know their "status" before gathering during the next few winter months.

Poloncarz said, "We actually know which kits can actually identify the omicron variant. They won't tell us it's omicron. They just will know that it's a COVID-19 positive case. Only a PCR case and test that is then genetically sequenced can in all likely hood determine whether you have omicron or not."

Those who plan to purchase their own at-home test are advised that not all over-the-counter rapid tests are able to identify the omicron variant.

He added, "The FDA has it on its website that those that are identified that are good for identifying omicron and those that are not so good. If you get the Abbot "Bynax Now", it's a good one."

The list to the FDA approved at-home COVID tests can be found here.

There is a concern that some of these at-home tests can produce "false negatives", depending on *when* the self-test has been administered.

"If you were exposed on a Saturday. You got an at-home test and took it on a Sunday, it could come back negative even though you actually have the COVID-19 virus in your system," Poloncarz added. "Then, you go to the family on Monday and Tuesday and your asymptomatic phase, thinking you're safe when in fact you actually have COVID-19."

With the holidays and winter months pushing people to migrate indoors, Erie County Health commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said a layered approach is the best way to ensure you and those around you are safe.

"Not only vaccinating, which is very important, especially getting the two doses of the mRNA vaccines; either the Pfizer or Moderna, plus the booster dose is very, very important, plus we all have the mask. Plus, we should keep our social gatherings fun," Dr. Burstein said. "If anybody is sick, they should stay away. Plus, if we know people are going to be going to a gathering, they do the right thing and get a test to know your status."

More information on the booster dose can be found here.