ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. — Erie County has reached a new milestone in the number of COVID-19 cases recorded in the county.
According to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Erie County recorded 878 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the daily positivity rate was 11%. This is the highest number of cases the county has recorded in a single day since the pandemic started.
"I wish I had better news, but unfortunately we are going in the wrong direction, and this is the worst direction we've ever had," Poloncarz said. "As we've almost surpassed 900 cases in a single day. These are new cases, these are not duplicates."
The county also discussed the increase in COVID-19 case rates per zip code for last week.
For the week ending in Nov. 20, Poloncarz says the COVID-19 case rates per 100,000 people are the highest they have ever been. Poloncarz also stressed that if the county continues down this path, that it may not be able to control further spread.
According to Poloncarz, Erie County has surpassed the number of COVID cases that were reported in March, April and May of 2020, and has nearly surpassed the most recent spike in cases reported back in March and April of 2021. Poloncarz also notes that the current rate of growth is worse now than in November of 2020.
In terms of hospitalizations, Poloncarz says local hospitals are currently at or near capacity. The number of COVID-19 patients in Erie County increased by 62 percent over the past two weeks.
Poloncarz says local hospitals have added a few more staffed beds; however, they appear to be at or near capacity for inpatients. Local hospitals have reached 90.4% total capacity and 85.7% ICU capacity. Patients in a hospital emergency department have been experiencing wait times from eight to 12 hours or more.
"We must prevent hospitals from being overrun with COVID-19 patients," Poloncarz said.
The ages of those being hospitalized is across the board, with both younger and older demographics being hospitalized for COVID-19, according to Poloncarz. The largest age category with the most people in the hospital on Nov. 22 was the 55 to 64 age category.
The county says 61% of all COVID-19 patients hospitalized last week were not fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, 71% of all COVID-19 patients in the ICU were not fully vaccinated, and 71% of COVID-19 patients who required an airway assist were not fully vaccinated.
"When it comes to the younger age category it's generally those that are unvaccinated, by a large margin, like 90%," Poloncarz said. "When we talk about the older age categories over the age of 75 and 80, there are vaccinated people who are in the hospital. But when you're under 70, especially under 60, it's almost all unvaccinated people. They shouldn't be in the hospital, but they are because they're unvaccinated."
Poloncarz says 75.2 percent of all adults in Erie County have received at least one dose of COVID-19, while 71.1 percent have completed the vaccine series.
And with Thanksgiving only a day away, the county executive addressed the topic of celebrating the holiday safely. The Erie County Department of Health is encouraging people to stay home and away from others if they are ill, and to get tested.
"Make sure it is a happy Thanksgiving by not passing on COVID-19 to someone else," Poloncarz said. "It's bad out there as we've shown; the worst day ever recorded in new cases for COVID-19 in Erie County was yesterday. We don't expect it to get much better in the next few days."
Poloncarz announced the recent spike in cases during the county's second COVID-19 briefing in the span of three days. On Monday, Poloncarz announced a mask mandate for all indoor public spaces in Erie County. That mandate officially went into effect Tuesday morning and is part of a four phase approach.
Phase two of the plan would require vaccines to enter indoor dining, bars and entertainment venues. While it's not required at this time, some local businesses have already begun requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccines.
According to the county, implementation of phase two would be put in place if COVID-19 case data, case rates and hospitalizations continue to rise even after the implementation of the mask mandate. These numbers will be reevaluated in three weeks on Dec. 13.
However, if there is a dramatic increase in cases and hospitalizations implementation of phase two could happen sooner.