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Poloncarz: 78% of hospital beds were occupied in Erie County as of Wednesday

'We are in a very, very critical time,' Poloncarz said during a Friday afternoon briefing.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein provided an update into the county's COVID-19 status on Friday. 

Poloncarz said that the county is seeing a rapid growth of COVID-19 across the board: cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

"We are in a very, very critical time," Poloncarz said during the briefing.

As of Wednesday, 78 percent of the hospital beds in Erie County were occupied.

For a better picture, 2 On Your Side reached out to some of our local hospitals.

Mike Hughes with Kaleida Health said Friday that among Buffalo General, Millard Fillmore Suburban and Oishei Children's Hospital, there were 176 COVID-positive patients with about 18 percent of them in the ICU. 

Hughes said back in the spring, they peaked at about 110 COVID positive patients across the system but with nearly 40 percent in the ICU.

Peter Cutler with Erie County Medical Center said there are 48 positive COVID patients at the hospital, with five in intensive care beds.

He added that one of the hospital's highest census days was April 22 with 43 positive COVID patients, but 21 were on ventilators. 

"Clearly much larger patient base that we're dealing with, but fortunately not as much utilization for the ICU," Hughes said. 

Both Hughes and Cutler said they're preparing in case the numbers continue to rise. 

Hughes told 2 On Your Side, "For the past week we've been in constant contact with Erie County, the Department of Health, the county executive, the governor's team, the state department of health and scenario planning, following the numbers and watching the metrics. So as the numbers continue to rise, we're making sure we do have adequate bed supply at this point." 

On a call with reporters, Gov. Andrew Cuomo stressed that New York's hospitals can be flexible when it comes to capacity. 

"We have elective surgery cancelation, mandatory 50 percent increase, and then we have emergency bed creation capacity where we can create several thousand hospital beds relatively quickly. We know that because we've done that," Cuomo said. 

However, it appears on average statewide, patients are coming in and getting out of the hospital quicker. 

The governor said the state is also seeing the death rate is going down.

"March, April, of those hospitalized, 23 percent died. That number is down to eight percent," Cuomo explained. 

Still, health officials emphasize the rising numbers are reason for concern.

Hughes said, "The spike is real. The surge is real. It's something that we have to take seriously." 

On Friday Dr. Gale Burstein added that 20 percent of symptomatic people tested at county sites are testing positive.

There were also 138 COVID-19 related deaths in November for Erie County, that number is something that may increase based on data that is still being collected, according to Poloncarz.

Health and county officials also repeated that they are seeing an increase in cases coming from family spread.