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21 WNY medical organizations urge public to avoid gatherings, follow COVID-19 precautions

On Friday, 76 percent of hospital beds and 43 percent of intensive care unit beds in Erie County were full, according to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Hospitalizations have been increasing locally, and now Western New York medical officials are speaking up and urging the public to follow recommendations and precautions to stop the spread ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

"Our main goal is to keep each of you and your families safe, healthy, and alive," wrote 21 medical organizations and practices in a co-signed letter, released on Sunday. 

Among the recommendations, the organizations stressed that any gathering with any people you don't live with can cause an outbreak, even if the people who are attending don't think they have coronavirus or don't have symptoms.

Organizations that signed this letter include medical systems such as Kaleida Health and Catholic Health, practices such as UBMD and General Physician PC, hospitals as big as Erie County Medical Center and as small as Bertrand Chaffee, and local urgent cares and health insurance providers. 

On Friday, 76 percent of hospital beds and 43 percent of intensive care unit beds in Erie County were full, according to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

"We must avoid overcrowding hospitals and health care facilities to keep nurses, doctors, and health care workers safe so they can continue meeting the demanding health care needs of our community," the organizations said in the letter. 

The organizations stressed the following recommendations as being very important to follow: 

  • If you are ill and waiting for test results, stay home while you wait and contact your physician if your symptoms worsen. You might be contagious.
  • Gatherings of any size with people who live outside your household can cause outbreaks. Remember, you can have very mild symptoms or no signs of illness at all and still spread COVID to our friends and loved ones. It is better to skip one gathering and make sure everyone has more to look forward to.
  • Stay six feet away from other people in public and wear a mask.
  • Clean your hands frequently and avoid touching your face.

"We understand how hard this may be on you and your family. We know that everyone wants to do the right thing. Working together, our combined and focused efforts will help keep you, your families, and our vital health care workers safe," the organizations said in the letter.

Signed organizations include: Catholic Health, Kaleida Health, John R. Oishei Children's Hospital, The U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs, Erie County Medical Center, Roswell Park, Bertrand Chaffee Hospital, Medical Society of Erie County, Buffalo Center for Health Equity, Catholic Medical Partners Independent Practice Association, Optimum Physician Alliance, Univera Healthcare, Community Pediatric Association of Western New York, UBMD Emergency Medicine, Western New York Immediate Care, WellNow Urgent Care, General Physician PC, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, Independent Health, Primary Care IPA, and the Erie County Department of Health.