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Erie County in 'a bad situation' with coronavirus, but controls its own destiny

by jmaloni
Mon, Nov 16th 2020 04:55 pm

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein again on Monday warned residents coronavirus cases will continue to rise unless safety measures are obeyed. Most of the area is in a “yellow” micro-cluster area, as the number of positive COVID-19 cases has skyrocketed in the past month.

Courtesy of Erie County Department of Health


Speaking to the press, Burstein said, “You can see, in the past couple weeks, we have seen an exponential rise in the proportion of positive tests and the number of positive tests in Erie County. And actually, 31% of all the Erie County cases reported since the beginning of the pandemic were in the last four weeks – and 16% of all the cases reported in Erie County since the beginning of the pandemic were just in the past week itself. The positivity rate this past week, ending on Nov. 14, was five times higher than it was just a couple weeks ago, of the week ending on Oct. 24.

“We are seeing an exponential rise in our cases. Our reproductive rate is 1.5. So, (for) every one person that is infected, we can expect 1.5 person to get infected as a result of that one person. This is a bad situation.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said the infection rate is only controllable when the spread rate is 1 to 1 or lower.

Poloncarz said, “I just want to remind everybody this is an exceptionally serious situation. We've had a rapid growth of cases, doubling, basically, on a weekly basis. We've had increases in hospitalizations, increases in deaths, and this is not something that should be laughed at. This is not something that should be trifled with.”

Nine Erie County residents with COVID-19 died Sunday.

“You need to wear your mask when you're around people; other than your basic home, you should be always wearing a mask, except for the people that you're around at your house,” Poloncarz said. “It's one of the reasons why we make a recommendation that you do not have Thanksgiving with anybody else other than your immediate household, because this is bad. It's getting worse. We're very worried about where we are. And, unfortunately, there are people who passed this most recent period, who people were probably planning on having Thanksgiving dinner with. There are empty chairs at tables that people thought would be having holiday dinners with, and they're not going to be there now. And I offer my deepest condolences to the loved ones and friends and family of those who have passed from COVID-19.

“This is real – it's not going away – and we all need to be in this together to protect each and every one of us.”

Courtesy of Erie County Department of Health


Amid concerns Erie County could go from a “yellow” to an “orange” or “red” zone (see metrics at bottom), Burstein said there is a solution to the problem.

“So, what do we need to do; how can we get over this? First of all, what we have to do is stay at home,” she said. “People just stay at home. Stay away from anybody else that does not live in your household. And if you do go out and you're going to be around other people, wear a mask. Masks are very protective.

“And then, unfortunately, it's the holiday season, and people are planning Thanksgiving; people are planning shopping expeditions; but we have to stay at home or cancel these gatherings. And postpone them to another date, until the spring when we hopefully will have a vaccine. But this is something that we can't have a large gathering – even (in) small gatherings we're seeing living room outbreaks. Just a few people in a living room, and we're seeing outbreaks of that. So, we really have to protect the people that we love from COVID-19. And so, we can't have our grandparents and our parents over for Thanksgiving dinner this year; we have to protect them.

Burstein cited a Georgia Tech data tool that has “reported surveillance data of COVID-19 to estimate the likelihood that, if you have a gathering of a certain amount of people, what the likelihood is that there'll be at least one person in your gathering that will have COVID-19; and so they do this by county. For Erie County – we just got this off their website today – if you are planning a gathering for just 15 people somewhere in Erie County, there is a 22% chance that at least one person in the gathering will have COVID-19. And then if you're planning a gathering with more people – say, 50 people in Erie County – there's a 56% chance that at least one person in the room will have COVID-19.

“We know how contagious COVID-19 is; it's just not worth the risk. Even a small number of people can transmit infection.”

Coronavirus Stats for Nov. 16 – Erie County

As of Sunday, Erie County had 272 new positive coronavirus tests and a yearly total of 17,869 confirmed COVID-19 cases (including 315 on Grand Island and 7,743 in the City of Buffalo). To date, 643,280 people have been tested (2.8% positive), with 746 deaths attributed to the coronavirus. Also, 90,679 people have taken an antibody test (7.1% positive). Saturday’s positivity rate was 6.2%.

Image courtesy of the Erie County “heat map”

Coronavirus Stats for Nov. 16 – Niagara County

The Niagara County Department of Health issued the following update on positive COVID-19 cases in Niagara County:

Source: Niagara County active case map, as of Friday morning.

Each region's percentage of positive test results reported over the last three days is as follows:






Capital Region




Central New York




Finger Lakes




Long Island








Mohawk Valley




New York City




North Country




Southern Tier




Western New York





"COVID-19 is spreading in New York, and the increased number of cases is taking place throughout the state. This is not an upstate or downstate issue – all New Yorkers, regardless of where they live, have cause for concern," Cuomo said. "We are continuing to use a comprehensive micro-cluster strategy and increase our testing capacity to new heights. However, our success also depends on the vigilance and smart behavior of New Yorkers. Wash your hands, stay socially distanced and wear a mask. Local governments, do the enforcement. We're going to get through this pandemic, but only if we do it together and stay ‘New York Tough.’ "

More Erie County Numbers

Courtesy of Erie County Department of Health


Micro-Cluster Metrics

√ ‘Yellow Zone’ – Precautionary zone

  • Houses of worship are limited to 50% capacity.
  • Mass gatherings are 25 people maximum, indoor or outdoor.
  • Businesses remain open.
  • Indoor and outdoor dining is restricted to four persons maximum per table.
  • Schools are open, but with mandatory weekly testing of students and teachers/staff for in-person settings.

√ ‘Orange Zone’ – Warning zone

  • Houses of worship: 33% capacity, 25 people maximum
  • Mass gatherings: 10 people maximum, indoor and outdoor
  • Businesses: Closing high-risk nonessential businesses such as gyms and personal care
  • Dining: Outdoor dining only, four-person maximum per table
  • Schools: Closed, remote only

√ ‘Red Zone’ – Cluster itself

  • Houses of worship: 25% capacity, 10 people maximum
  • Mass gatherings: Prohibited
  • Businesses: Only essential businesses open
  • Dining: Takeout only
  • Schools: Closed, remote only

Get Tested

Erie County residents can call 716-858-2929 to schedule a free, basic COVID-19 diagnostic test.

No symptoms need to be present, nor is a lab order or doctor’s referral required. An appointment is necessary, however.

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