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Erie Co. officials say behavior leading to high COVID rates

Posted at 11:33 PM, Apr 20, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Western New York's 4.76% 7-day average continues to be the highest in the state, according to numbers from the state. Erie County officials said behavior is a contributing factor.

“I agree with the County Executive it’s behavior," said Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein. "And you know, it's not just the behavior of not wearing masks, not social distancing, are contact tracers have told us people are refusing to isolate and quarantine.”

Recent warm weather and blooming cherry blossoms make parks popular spots, but health experts advise Western New Yorkers to remember this, “outdoors is much safer, but it’s not fails safe,” said University at Buffalo's Chief of Infectious Diseases Dr. Thomas Russo.

He said variants make it more dangerous to let your guard down, even when outdoors.

“Two people passing outside, at a reasonable distance doesn’t pose a significant risk; however, if people are standing around, drinking a cup of coffee, or talking, that's the scenario when unvaccinated individuals that are not wearing masks outdoors could get infected.”

Dr. Russo said since children under 16 can't get the vaccine they should be wearing masks while in close contact like on the playground.

As for empty areas, he said to have a mask nearby because you never know when someone will approach you.

Dr. Russo said it's safe for vaccinated people to be together indoors and outdoors without masks. According to Erie County, 55% of all eligible county residents have received their first vaccine dose.