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Erie County hospitalizations are shooting up, trending younger in age

"Nearly 50 percent of people in the hospital with COVID-19 were 64 and younger over the past week," said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gail Burstein provided an update into the county's COVID-19 progress Monday afternoon.

During the update, Poloncarz provided an update into the hospitalizations in the county stating that they are, "shooting up," adding that the people who are being hospitalized with COVID-19 are trending younger in age.

"Nearly 50 percent of people in the hospital with COVID-19 were 64 and younger over the past week," Poloncarz said.

New York State reported Monday, November 16 that the total number of people hospitalized with the virus in the region increased by 28 people over the weekend. The total number of hospitalized patients on Sunday was 175. The last time it was that high was on May 22.

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gail Burstein also provided insight and data regarding COVID-19 in Erie County during the briefing.

"We are seeing an exponential rise of positive COVID-19 tests," Burstein said.

Burstein provided the following COVID related statistics: 

  • Thirty-one percent of all Erie County COVID-19 cases, since the beginning of the pandemic, have been reported in the last four weeks
  • Sixteen percent of all Erie County COVID-19 cases, since the beginning of the pandemic, have been reported were just in the past week. 

Poloncarz and Burstein also stated that Erie County is experiencing a rise in cases from schools and COVID-19 related deaths in the county. There were nine new coronavirus-related deaths in the county on Sunday, according to New York State.

Since early spring, medical experts have been warning the public of just how dire a spike in COVID-19 cases during peak flu season could be. 

Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo, says if the numbers don't begin to drop, these kind of numbers are going to pose a serious problem for the healthcare system - sooner than later.

"The increasing number of cases in hospitalization is solely due to our behavior in not following pubic health initiatives," Russo said.

Russo tells 2 On Your Side, the more people continue to congregate, especially inside in different circles, and the less they wear their masks and practice social distancing, the worse off everyone will be.

"If hospitals have an overflowing number of individuals they won't get they optimal care and outcomes are likely to be worse."

Mark Sullivan, president and CEO of Catholic Health, says the current situation is very serious in this region. Sullivan and his team are treating it that way, as he hopes is the rest of the community.

"There won't be beds for those that need them. And it won't be because the healthcare systems in Western New York aren't prepared, it'll be because we haven't had compliance of people stepping up to really wear their masks and focus on what's right to do for the community," Sullivan said.

Joe Ruffolo, CEO of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center shared his concerns directly with 2 On Your Side's Liz Lewin. Ruffolo says he and his team are also preparing to make more space to accommodate the increasing number of people battling COVID-19.

You can watch the full press conference below: