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COVID hospitalizations spike in Western New York, peak in Finger Lakes

Two days ago, the Finger Lakes region made history, and not in a good way. The region had 225 COVID-19 hospitalizations, the most at any point during the pandemic.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Hospitalizations in Western New York and the Finger Lakes continue to rise. 

Health officials are concerned about the spike in cases and what this could mean in the months ahead.  

Two days ago, the Finger Lakes region made history, and not in a good way.
The region had 225 COVID-19 hospitalizations, the most at any point in the pandemic.

"We're seeing very much community spread quite a bit of it across the region here," said Dan Ireland, the president of United Memorial Medical Center.

Rochester Regional Health, a major health care provider in the Finger Lakes, reported 117 COVID hospitalizations, more than four times what it had a month ago.

"We've seen a little bit within our own data across the health system that middle age grouping 20-60 range to have a little higher number for a period of time," Ireland said.

Hospitalizations are also rapidly rising in Western New York.

Just two days ago, a total of 233 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, the most since early May. On hospital capacity, the state's COVID dashboard shows ICU bed capacity in pretty good shape, but total hospital beds is something for us to continue to watch.

"We are worried about shortages in beds. I do know that some of the hospitals are starting to stop visitation. They're starting to slow down on elective surgeries," Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said.

Catholic Health has announced it's temporarily suspending in-patient elective surgeries for the next two weeks. On the other hand, Erie County Medical Center says it has plenty of capacity, and at this point, the scheduling of surgeries has not been impacted.

In response to rising cases, many local hospitals are once again, placing in-patient visitation restrictions except for medical needs and end of life cases.

If hospitalizations become overwhelming, the county could use the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center as a COVID hospital. There were talks about that during the first wave, but it wasn't needed.

Poloncarz says there have been some talks of using the convention center, but nothing serious.

Niagara Falls Memorial President and CEO Joseph A. Ruffolo says:

Our COVID admissions have increased over the past couple of weeks but thus far have been manageable. We attribute much of this to a very ambitious community diagnostic testing program we conducted during the summer and early fall. Tracking cases for community “hot spots” allowed us to predict and respond quickly to neighborhoods being most impacted.

Additionally, we never stopped preparing, even hiring a second full-time physician disease specialist to strengthen our COVID response.

Currently we are constructing space for administering antibody infusion therapy to qualifying COVID-19 outpatients to prevent hospitalization and reviewing the logistics of distributing vaccine, initially to our doctors, nurses and other frontline healthcare workers.

Michael Hughes, a spokesman for Kaleida Health, added:

“We continue to monitor the rising levels of COVID positive patients and hospitalizations at all of our facilities. At this point, we are not at our peak levels that we saw back in the spring, but the numbers are certainly growing. We still have enough capacity at this time to run day-to-day operations, which we are calling “dual systems of care.” That is the ability to treat COVID and non-COVID patients without completely interrupting hospital operations. Key to that is our workforce, sufficient testing capacity, space planning efforts as well as supplies and equipment.”