Rise in Erie County hospital admissions "very concerning" to Health Commissioner

Posted at 12:44 AM, May 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-30 09:56:01-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A four day rise in Erie County hospital admissions shown in state data released Friday is “very concerning” to the Health Commissioner. The numbers show 20 people were admitted to county hospitals on Wednesday alone.

“Hopefully we’ll continue on a downward trend, but this higher number of admissions is very concerning to us,” Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said at a press conference Friday afternoon.

The upward trend in hospital admissions being watched by health officials closely, especially as the Western New York region nears Phase Two of reopening.

“We’ll have to see how to governor and New York state interprets these data and keeping and hoping we’ll still be allowed to progress into Phase Two,” Dr. Burstein said.

Infectious disease expert and Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Dr. Thomas Russo hopes these numbers are just a “blip” in the data.

“During the peak number of infections we were having, the hospitalization number was sort of in the mid-to-high 20s each day, so the 20 represents a fairly large number,” Dr. Russo said in a Zoom interview Friday.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Nikki DeMentri asked Dr. Russo: “From your point of view, to see these numbers over the last couple of days, does it surprise you to see that last little blip in hospital admissions?”

Dr. Russo responded: “I’m a little nervous that we saw the blip this soon.”

Memorial Day might not be the reason. Both medical experts agree it’s still too early to see the effects of the holiday weekend. Dr. Russo added experts need to observe the number of hospital admissions over several days before jumping to conclusions.

“I’m hoping that it’s not just a reflection that now we’re in phase one, people have dropped their guard,” Dr. Russo said.

As for continuing with the reopening process, Dr. Russo said the metrics are “not as rigid” for Phase Two as Phase One.

“The guarantee for us to go into Phase Two is to keep total hospitalization admissions down, keep hospitalizations down. That’s a guarantee ticket,” Dr. Russo said.

Both medical experts said these are numbers the public can control.

“We’re only as good as our behavior for the last few days,” Dr. Russo said.

Dr. Burstein and Dr. Russo are urging everyone to wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands.

“This is another weekend, this is a second chance," Dr. Burstein said.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz was not at the county's Friday press conference, but did tweet out earlier Friday about the latest data.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul released this statement Friday:
“Nothing has changed. As long as necessary metrics are sustained, Western New York would be eligible for Phase Two reopening as soon as Tuesday.”