BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Western New York appears to be in the ‘eye of the Covid storm’ with the highest infection rates in New York State.
“We don't believe there's anything that accounts for that other than the variation in human behavior,” commented Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Governor Cuomo outlined the lates numbers Monday during a state-wide Covid briefing. He says Western New York's Covid infection rate is worrisome.
It’s at 4.78% at a time when numbers in other parts of the state are at — or near — record lows.
The positivity rate in the nearby Southern Tier has dropped to .86%.
“Why Western New York? Why Buffalo?,” questioned Cuomo.
“We now have more patients in the hospital, than when we did even at the peak in the spring,” explained Dr. Peter Winkelstein, executive director, Institute for Healthcare Informatics, UB’s Jacobs School of Medicine.
Dr. Winkelstein says the Western New York region has actually exceeded the peak of the spring of 2020.
“Why is Western New York seeing such a high rate than anywhere else in New York State?,” asked Buckley.
“The short answer is — we're not sure,” responded Dr. Winkelstein. “Something happened here in probably the second week of March. We saw an increase in the transmission of the virus. That’s caused this rise in the hospitalizations that we are seeing.”
Dr. Winkelstein says it's clearly a combination of three things:
- New Covid Variants
- Recent Spring Break
“It’s very difficult from the data to kind of tease that out and say how much of it is due to spring break, how much is it due to the variant, how much is due to reopening — there's no easy way to do that,” reflected Dr. Winkelstein.
Winkelstein says while they don’t know for sure, “undoubtedly" it’s the combination of those factors.
“We’ve been reopening slowly over the period of spring,” noted Dr. Winkelstein. “It maybe the variants themselves have really started to move into this area. Reopening, our relaxing our guard — I do think the spring break traveling is part of the relaxing of our guard.”
He says it is also somewhat offset by the increase in the number of people getting vaccines.
“But we don’t yet have enough people vaccinated to really put an end to this wave to really put an end to these infections,” replied Winkelstein.
The governor says the state will be looking into why the rates are so high here in Western New York, but so far they're not considering any new restrictions for the region.
“We’re not contemplating additional restrictions, but we do have to get it under control — we do, otherwise we will have a problem,” Cuomo explained.
Cuomo said Covid is still a “risk” and a “threat”.
“It’s definitely scary. It's scary to want to go out and do things,” declared Katherine Gorczyca, Buffalo resident.
The Buffalo mother of two young children said she believes there is still so much we don't know about Covid and is worried as people are getting vaccinated, they're also letting their guard down.
“I definitely think people think with the vaccine they can be a little more lenient. We just have to protect ourselves and try to be safe and try to take all the precautions we can,” replied Gorczyca.
Dr. Winkelstein says what is different in this third wave of Covid is while hospitalizations are up, the patients are younger.
He said the good news is the death rates are lower.
“We’re seeing younger patients in the hospital, so the average age of patients the hospital has gone down — the number of fatalities seems to be lower than this wave then during the previous waves,” explained Winkelstein.
We also asked Dr. Winkelstein about if restrictions could help.
“There’s no question, if we put some restrictions back in place — that would reduce the number of infections,” Winkelstein replied.
But on the same day the governor discussed the high rates in the Western New York region, he also announced changes to capacity percentages at some venues.
- Museum and zoo capacity - 50% - April 26th
- Movie theaters - 33% capacity - April 26th
- Indoor arenas - 25% capacity - May 19th