Erie County leaders honor lives lost from COVID-19 in ceremony outside Old County Hall

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It has been a year since the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Erie County. Now, there have been more than 68 thousand cases and 1,702 deaths.

To honor those lives we’ve lost, Erie County leaders gathered Monday outside Old County Hall to hold a candle lighting ceremony and reflect on the past year.

“This year has been the greatest public health challenge that hopefully we ever face, and it’s been a very, very dark year for all of us,” said Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein. “We have all suffered losses; however, I want to bring to the attention that we’ve had shimmers of light.”

Shimmers of light like the community coming together throughout the pandemic.

“[I want to thank] all of those in our community that came together in true Buffalo, Erie County and Western New York fashion to help us get through this challenging time, this difficult time. As Mayor of the City of Buffalo, I could not be prouder of all the members of this community the way they pulled together,” said Mayor Byron Brown.

Leaders say even in this time of reflection, the virus is still out there and it’s now on us to protect ourselves and others.

“I hoped it would never get as bad as it did. I steeled myself that we were going to lose a lot of residents and, in fact, we did,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. “Looking back on a year that’s unlike any other, all I can hope for as we go forward – it is so much better that we never have a year like this again.”

For the rest of this week, Old County Hall will be lit amber to honor the 1,702 Erie County residents who have passed away from COVID-19.

Marlee Tuskes is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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