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When will things get back to normal? Experts weigh in

Erie County's daily COVID-19 hospitalizations are down significantly from November. Federal and local experts say things could be more normal later this year.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Erie County's daily hospitalizations are at the lowest point they've been since mid-November.

According to the latest data from the Erie County Department of Health, as of February 27, there were 161 people in the hospital with COVID-19. In mid-November there were more than 450 people hospitalized. 

"We are really doing great here in Erie County and in Western New York all of our numbers are looking great and most importantly total hospitalizations is as low as they've been since mid-November," said University at Buffalo Professor and Chief of Infectious Disease Dr.Thomas Russo.

The Erie County Department of Health reports that 14% of Erie County residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Russo attributes some of the decline in hospitalizations to vaccinating the most vulnerable in the county.

Russo said if we continue at our present pace with both vaccinations and following public health measures, he said we could see a little bit of normalcy this summer.

"I'm hoping our numbers are going to be very low in terms of cases and the proportion of people vaccinated and having some level of protection sometime in June. If we continue at our present pace, having a much more normal June, July and August is quite realistic," he said.

When asked about what 'more normal' could mean in terms of public health measures, Russo said it will depend on COVID-19 case numbers. 

He said if we still have cases and not many people vaccinated, it could mean outdoor gatherings with masks, but if we are closer to herd immunity — which means 75% - 80% of people are vaccinated — public health measures could be loosened.

Federal leaders, Dr. Anthony Fauci and President Joe Biden both have said there is no perfect formula to determine when things will return to normal but they both agreed that "by Christmas I think we'll be in very different circumstances," which was said by Biden last month.

That quote was from a CNN Town Hall on February 16. These were his remarks released by the White House:

"And so, if that works that way — as my mother would say, with the grace of God and the goodwill of the neighbors — that by next Christmas, I think we’ll be in a very different circumstance, God willing, than we are today.  I think a year from now, when it’s 22 below zero here — (laughter) — no, a year from now, I think that there’ll be significantly fewer people having to be socially distanced, have to wear masks, et cetera.  But we don’t know."