BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — As coronavirus conditions improve in Erie County, the county executive remains hopeful that, not only the county face mask mandate will be rolled back, but the area could be one step closer to achieving endemic status.

“If things continue in this trend, there’s a possibility we’ll be able to lift this mask requirement in February, but we’re not there yet,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. “There are still people dying, most of them are unvaccinated, especially if they’re under the age of 60. I’m just asking everyone to bear with us.”

Even though the outlook is good, the county executive says the county’s mask mandate is still in place right now and everyone should be wearing masks when in public spaces.

There’s also some cautious optimism about the pandemic entering an endemic phase through a combination of vaccination and prior infections.

“Omicron is burning through our population so quickly, that it’s going to increase the population immunity over a shorter period of time,” said Thomas Russo, UB infectious disease expert. “So, it’s possible we may make the shift from pandemic mode to endemic mode sometime in the latter part of February to the early part of March at this rate.”

That’s if no new variants arise.

“That assumes that a new problematic variant doesn’t arise, that evades that population-based immunity,” said Russo. “So, if omicron is the only variant that we have to deal with, and nothing arises in the future, I think that we’ll get into endemic mode sooner as opposed to later.”

When it comes to masking, local gyms are looking forward to seeing the mandates — both state and local — rolled back.

“It would be fabulous if they release the mask mandate in February,” said Amy Bueme owner of Catalyst Fitness, who said one location has a vaccination-only entry policy. She says, if masks are rolled back, the vaccine-only club will go back to normal admission.

Angelica Morrison is an award-winning reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.