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Poloncarz: Erie County hospitals are at or nearing full capacity

According to the recent data from Erie County, local hospitals have reached or are nearly at their hospital capacity for inpatients.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — During a COVID-19 briefing Tuesday afternoon, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz discussed the rising hospital rates in the county, as well as Erie County's mask mandate.

According to the recent data from Erie County, local hospitals have reached or are nearly at their hospital capacity for inpatients. At this time, 89.3% of all staffed beds in Erie County hospitals are full. In addition, 86.7% of ICU beds are occupied.

Based on the most recent hospitalization data from Nov. 15 to Nov. 27, the county reports that COVID-19 patients in the hospital have increased by 65% over those two weeks. The county also reports that 18% of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Erie County are in the ICU.

The county went on to compare Western New York's COVID-19 hospitalizations from Nov. 28, 2020 to the hospitalizations on Nov. 28, 2021. According to the data, this time last year there were 386 COVID-19 patients in all WNY hospitals. Of those patients, 327 of which were in Erie County hospitals, while 59 patients were in other WNY counties.

As of Nov. 28, 2021, there were 484 COVID-19 patients in all Western New York hospitals. Of those hospitalized, 334 patients were in Erie County hospitals, and 150 patients were in other hospitals in the WNY region.

The county then detailed the specific number of hospitalizations at ECMC in the City of Buffalo. On Nov. 28, 2020 ECMC had 442 patients in the hospital and 36 patients in the ICU. Poloncarz notes that not all of the patients were COVID patients. 

Now fast-forward to Nov. 28, 2021 - ECMC was at 100 percent capacity with 552 patients and 47 patients in the ICU. According to Poloncarz, every bed at ECMC was full. Over the last 24 hours the hospital had a few discharges, but Poloncarz notes that the hospital is still essentially at 100% capacity.

Poloncarz went on to note that St. Joseph's is no longer an acute care facility, resulting in the loss of 112 COVID specific beds. In result, other hospitals need to absorb a higher load of COVID patients, which according to Poloncarz, is causing hospitals across WNY to reach (or be close to reaching) their staffed bed capacity. Currently wait times at hospital emergency departments can be anywhere from eight to 12 hours or more.

Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein and Poloncarz both stress that wearing masks can change the hospital census in WNY and can help keep the COVID numbers down.

"We took action with regards to the mask mandate because it is the best way to protect and prevent the further transmission of COVID-19," Poloncarz said. "Which is the best way to protect and prevent hospitals from getting overrun."

Poloncarz says if people continue to "do the right thing" and follow the county's mask mandate that county residents won't have to worry about following the next three phases of the county's four phase approach.

Phase one of the mask mandate was requiring masks for all indoor public locations in Erie County. Phase two of the plan would require vaccines to enter indoor dining, bars and entertainment venues. Implementation of this phase 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. 

Poloncarz said previously that 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.

But if things stay the way they are now, it is likely that the county would keep phase one in place until the end of the year without advancing to further phases.