BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Covid-19 cases are exploding in Erie County, with the region shattering its previous record for new cases in each of the first three days this week.

Wednesday’s record of 2,820 new cases is more than double the 1,368 new cases seen Monday, which was a record at that point. The county said 20.1% of tests Wednesday were positive.

The CDC designates areas with more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents to be “high” transmission areas, its most severe classification. Erie County is at 977 cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days.

While testing is more readily available now than earlier in the pandemic, these numbers far exceed caseloads seen at any point before.

The county’s highest daily caseload in the first wave of the pandemic was 277 positives on May 4, 2020. The highest daily total during last winter’s post-holiday surge was 852 positives. The Delta variant-driven spike this fall topped out at 981 new cases on Dec. 3. But the current explosion, driven by the even-more-highly transmissible Omicron variant and holiday gatherings, is producing caseloads several times higher than the previous records.

More than 15% of Erie County’s positive tests from the entire pandemic took place this month, according to Health Department data.

While the Omicron variant is believed to be associated with fewer severe symptoms than previous variants, the massive caseload is also driving up hospitalizations, which were trending down earlier this month.

Vaccinations and booster shots continue to play a large role in preventing severe illness. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said 65% of those hospitalized with Covid-19 on Monday were not fully vaccinated, including 73% of patients in the intensive care unit.

Erie County said this week’s numbers do not include take-home tests. If you test positive at home, the Health Department asks that you report the case here.

Both New York state and the country as a whole are seeing record caseloads due to the emergence of the Omicron variant.

Erie County has set the following records for daily caseloads this month:

  • Dec. 3: 981
  • Dec. 23: 1,137
  • Dec. 27: 1,368
  • Dec. 28: 1,926
  • Dec. 29: 2,820

Erie County reinstituted a mask mandate for all indoor public locations in late November and said further steps could be taken to mitigate the spread if the situation worsens. The county decided not to take additional steps when it reevaluated in mid-December because hospitalizations had stabilized. Poloncarz said then that the county would reassess the situation on Jan. 15.

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Nick Veronica is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a Digital Executive Producer in 2021. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can follow Nick on Facebook and Twitter and find more of his work here