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Top stories for 2021 on WGRZ.com

2 On Your Side takes a look back at the top stories on WGRZ.com for 2021.
Credit: WGRZ

BUFFALO, N.Y. — 2021 was busy year for news.

The headlines in Western New York were dominated throughout the year by COVID-19, vaccines, variants and breakthrough cases, as well as unemployment issues across New York State due to COVID-related job losses. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's resignation amid sexual harassment allegations was also a big story in August of 2021. WNY native Kathy Hochul was then sworn in as governor.

Those were just a couple of the top stories in WNY. Here are top stories for each month in 2021 on WGRZ.com.* 


Judge rules in favor of restaurants; those named in lawsuit can reopen under Yellow Zone restrictions

  • During the height of COVID-19, restaurants were closed to indoor dining, but depending on the positive rate, some restaurants could reopen with capacity restrictions. Several local restaurants sued the state to be able to have indoor dining under the yellow phase. They won their case, and those restaurants named in the suit were allowed to open their doors to indoor dining at 50% capacity.


KeyBank is closing eight branches in Western New York, from Buffalo to the suburbs

  • KeyBank announced plans that it was closing eight branches in the Buffalo market. KeyBank still has more than 50 branches in Erie and Niagara counties.


Vendors evacuated from Broadway Market following incident

  • The Broadway Market's Easter season got a delayed start due to an incident in early March. According to a spokesperson for the Buffalo Police Department, there was an incident involving suicidal person at the market for several hours.


New York State Department of Labor addresses phone line complaints

  • 2 On Your Side heard from a lot of people who said they didn't receive the extra $300 they're supposed to be getting every week in federal benefits. They also complained about having problems finding someone to talk to about it. 2 On Your Side asked the New York State Department of Labor what people should do if they can't get through by calling the main number, and what they should do if they haven't gotten the extra $300.


Seneca Nation now selling tax-free gas in downtown Buffalo

  • A new gas station opened in May on Seneca Nation territory near the Buffalo Creek Casino, offering lower prices because it's selling the gas without state taxes.


Bills' Beasley on being unvaccinated: 'I may die of COVID, but I'd rather die actually living'

  • Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley has been vocal about the vaccine mandates. In June, he tweeted a "Public Service Announcement" with a note expressing his dismissal of the COVID-19 vaccination. Beasley began the message stating, "Hi, I'm Cole Beasley and I'm not vaccinated!" before addressing more about the vaccines administered to prevent the coronavirus spread.


Poloncarz: Indoor mask mandate may go back into effect for county-owned facilities, pending possible Local Emergency Order

  • Following the CDC's announcement in July that it was recommending fully vaccinated people to wear masks while indoors in areas that are considered to be "hot spots," Erie County's executive warned that the indoor mask mandate may go back into effect.


New York State's updated partial unemployment system now in effect

  • In August, the NYS Labor Department updated their unemployment benefits system. Resident who lost full-time work and are now working part-time, 30 hours or fewer a week, and making $504 or less per week could still put in for lost wages. 


NY won't extend federal unemployment benefits program, citing unemployment insurance trust fund deficit of $11 billion

  • New York State did not extend federal pandemic unemployment programs that expired over Labor Day weekend. Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state's unemployment insurance trust fund has a deficit of $11 billion. Hochul said at the time that she's focused on job retraining for those who are unemployed.


They're back! What a recent sighting of a Woolly Bear Caterpillar has to do with this winter

  • One of the first sightings of a Woolly Bear Caterpillar in Western New York happened in October. 2 On Your Side Meteorologist Elyse Smith looked into what it meant for the upcoming winter season.


Erie County announces mask mandate for all indoor public locations

  • Erie County health officials initiated a face mask mandate for all indoor public locations after a sharp increase in COVID cases in the county, and a rise in hospitalizations.


Parks Police: Appears woman intentionally drove car into water above Niagara Falls

  • A dramatic scene unfolded at the brink of Niagara Falls in December. NYS Parks Police say it appeared a woman intentionally drove her vehicle into the water. Several agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard attempted to rescue the woman, but police says the woman died.

*Top stories were based on number of visitors to WGRZ.com

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