ECDOH addresses recent rise in new COVID-19 cases

It also includes individuals who travel to regional or national events, … and health insurance companies’ reluctance to cover diagnostic testing for …

BUFFALO (WBEN) – The Erie County Department of Health released an analysis on the recent increase in new daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“I am a little worried about the hospitalization growth, especially in those outside of Erie County,” said County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Tuesday.

The Department’s analysis provided insight as to the major reasons why transmission continues:

– Asymptomatic cases who transmit the disease without knowing they are infectious. A recent review by ECDOH of several weeks’ worth of cases showed that more than one-third of cases did not report having COVID symptoms.

– Travel outside the area. This includes individuals who return to Erie County from states that are on the NYS Travel Advisory list as those that are experiencing sustained community transmission of COVID-19. It also includes individuals who travel to regional or national events, as those individuals may come in contact with participants from high-risk states.

– Congregate living settings and households with large families or college-age groups, and an unwillingness or inability to isolate or quarantine to prevent transmission within that household.

– Group activities, social gatherings and organized sports where participants are not wearing masks or distancing appropriately.

– Access to testing: ECDOH is working to expand capacity to provide diagnostic COVID tests, and these tests are offered at no cost. With support from NYSDOH, point-of-care testing is available for symptomatic p-12 students and symptomatic school staff in order to get them back to school and work if they have been excluded because of COVID-like symptoms. But most diagnostic tests do not give immediate results, and health insurance companies’ reluctance to cover diagnostic testing for asymptomatic people can be a barrier for testing.

– Prevention fatigue: Recommended non-pharmaceutical interventions (wearing face masks, frequent handwashing, cleaning high-tough surfaces, physical distancing) have become part of many people’s everyday routines. Those behaviors have to continue. People who disregard those recommendations, intentionally or unintentionally, are taking risks with their health and the health of those around them.

“A small number of cases can turn into a significant concern quickly,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein via statement, even though she couldn’t be reached for comment. “That’s why the measures we are taking to reduce opportunities for COVID transmission are so crucial, and they have to continue.”

“We’re dealing with a virus that we don’t have a vaccine for yet, and until we have a vaccine, we have to be vigilant,” said Poloncarz. “Sometimes people are deliberately not wearing masks or not following the rules, and those are the ones we worry about.”

Dr. Tom Russo serves as the Chief of Infectious Disease for the Jacobs School of Medicine, and he added that this is certainly not the time to relax on safety protocols.

“I think what we should realize is that these numbers are a potential wake up call,” said Russo. “We’ve got cooler weather coming our way, more indoor activities, increased risk of individuals getting infected, so we really need to sort of double down at this point and be extraordinarily rigorous in both our public health measures and being aware of avoiding situations where you might put yourself at risk.”