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Erie County Health Department: "Omicron is now the dominant variant"

County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein address concerns over rising cases in their weekly COVID-19 briefing.
COVID-19 omicron
Posted at 4:55 PM, Dec 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-28 17:15:45-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — With Erie County COVID-19 cases spiking, the County Executive and County Health Department have identified the root cause as the Omicron variant, which they have identified as showing up in Western New York somewhere between December 7th-10th.

"Most of the cases we are seeing pop-up right now are Omicron," said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

Erie County saw 5,108 cases last week, an increase of 47% from the previous week. In addition, the 7-day case rate and positivity rate are increasing.

However, "some good news," per the County Executive - hospitalizations continue to decline, which also includes available beds for COVID-19 patients.

Medical experts including the Erie County Health Department tell 7 Eyewitness News the spike in cases and lack of hospitalizations is all because of Omicron - which is much more transmissible, but less likely to be life-threatening.

“We know that the Omicron we have here is the dominant strain in Western New York is very-very transmissible, two or three more than Delta - which is more transmissible than Alpha and more transmissible than the original variant," said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein.

In addition to analysis of case numbers and data - the County Executive and Health Department announced the beginning of the County's "Test-to-Stay" program, which allows students who were close contacted with COVID-19 the opportunity to test negative and avoid isolation. The program was pioneered in the Grand Island school district in November.

You can find 7 Eyewitness News' previous reporting here:

  1. Grand Island School's Kick-Off
  2. CDC moves to endorse "Test-To-Stay"
  3. Local reaction to "Test-To-Stay"

The Health Commissioner and County Executive plan on meeting with school district leaders by the week of January 3rd, to discuss next steps - and which schools will elect to opt-in to the program.

For further information on COVID-19 numbers, the Test-To-Stay program, and the full briefing, you can watch the full briefing here: