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Public health measures, vaccines stressed with COVID on rise in WNY

'We don't want to trip right before the finish line, and unfortunately it looks like that's what's happening right now,' Dr. Peter Winkelstein said.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Western New York has now gone up for three straight weeks.

That reality is raising the level of concern among local health leaders who believe our region is now hitting a third wave.

With hospitalizations on still the rise, comes the question of, 'Where are we headed? 

We asked Dr. Peter Winkelstein, the executive director of the Institute for Healthcare Informatics at the University at Buffalo's Jacobs School of Medicine.

He told 2 on Your Side, "It's very hard to say what's going to happen next because it all depends on all these factors that are so hard to predict, like how many vaccines are we going to get to this area? The more vaccines we get, the better. What's the weather going to be like?"

Dr. Winkelstein said warm days, like what we had over the last week, actually work in our favor, with people more likely to do things outside rather than gather indoors.

When it comes to factors working against us, he used examples such as travel and the variants, which appear to be more contagious.

Also, as we've heard throughout this whole pandemic, he stressed that so much of what's to come depends on our actions.

His team created a model illustrating what we could see if things keep going the way they are now, compared to if people get stricter again when it comes to following public health measures.

See below:

Credit: wgrz

"The difference between if everything continues the same and if we get an improvement is enormous, and it's meant to illustrate how important it is that people continue to pay attention to their gatherings, to their travel, to their face mask use. Basically, all that stuff is really important, so this ... is meant to illustrate how much effect we can have on the cases in the area," Dr. Winkelstein said.

He explained the model includes their best estimates of where we are with vaccines and variants and other contributing elements.

Overall, he said while we're waiting for more people to get fully vaccinated, we need to continue to be careful.

"We don't want to trip right before the finish line and unfortunately it looks like that's what's happening right now," Dr. Winkelstein said.