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New CDC standards enable long-awaited action; vaccine mandate at KeyBank Center will also be lifted
On Friday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced the mask mandate currently in effect in all Erie County-owned buildings would be lifted as of Monday, Feb. 28. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website now includes information on COVID-19 community levels nationwide, a measure of the impact of COVID-19 illness on community health and health care systems, and lists Erie County in the “medium” category. Case numbers and hospitalizations in Erie County have continued to decline recently from record-setting peaks for new confirmed cases and hospitalizations seen during the omicron variant surge.
“The CDC’s community level indicators show that Erie County is on the right track in the fight against the virus, and our own information about COVID-19 in the community corroborates what they are seeing,” Poloncarz said. “Cases and hospitalizations are decreasing, which is very encouraging. With this evidence in hand, the mask mandate in Erie County buildings will be lifted as of Monday Feb. 28. We are still closely monitoring the spread of the virus and will take other actions as necessary and when possible.”
Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said, “With this new way of evaluating COVID-19 risk, the CDC also outlines the community prevention strategies that our department will continue to focus our work. Vaccine clinics, access to testing and support for school testing programs will play a role in further reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission and illness.
“Though there will be less public emphasis on masks and distancing, people who are most vulnerable to infection – because they are unvaccinated or immunocompromised by age, medical condition, medication or pregnancy – should carefully consider the benefits of wearing a mask and maintaining distance from others in crowded or close spaces. That applies to people who live with, work with or care for those most vulnerable, as well.”
ECDOH noted “people living in communities in the CDC’s “medium” category are encouraged to practice individual and household-level prevention behaviors.” This includes:
√ If you are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease, talk to your health care provider about whether you need to wear a mask and take other precautions (e.g., testing);
√ If you have household or social contact with someone at high risk for severe disease, consider self-testing to detect infection before contact or consider wearing a mask when indoors with them;
√ Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and boosters;
√ Maintain improved ventilation throughout indoor spaces when possible;
√ Follow CDC recommendations for isolation and quarantine, including getting tested if you are exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19; and
√ If you are immunocompromised or high risk for severe disease, have a plan for rapid testing if needed (e.g., having home tests or access to testing), and talk to your health care provider about whether you are a candidate for treatments such as oral antivirals, PrEP, and monoclonal antibodies.
The CDC’s Community Level COVID-19 risk level metric is below (as provided by Erie County):