(WIVB) – Erie County has returned to the CDC’s “high risk” category of community COVID-19 transmission, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted Saturday.

On Friday, 198 new cases were confirmed by the Erie County Department of Health – a total of 962 cases in the past seven days. There have been 101 new cases per 100,000 Erie County residents over the past seven days.

“Well the reality of things, are that we want to be done with this pandemic, but unfortunately this pandemic is not done with us and that’s primarily in the unvaccinated,” local infectious disease expert Dr. Thomas Russo said.

After factoring in the updated population numbers from the 2020 census, a little more than half of Erie County residents are fully vaccinated.

Dr. Thomas Russo, with the Jacobs School of Medicine, says this could be concerning, especially with the Delta Variant.

“At the end of the day we’ve known for a while that here in Erie County and Western New York, there’s still a significant minority that’s not fully vaccinated,” Dr. Russo said.

He stresses that the best way to prevent getting infected by the Delta Variant is by being fully vaccinated.

“I know we all want to be done with this pandemic, but unfortunately that’s not the case,” Dr. Russo said. “The Delta Variant is sort of crashing our summer it’s extraordinarily infectious, and if you’re not careful is going to find you [and] with unpredictable consequences.”

Health officials point out the majority of new COVID cases in Erie County are from the Delta Variant.

“It’s a concern that people have not been vaccinated. I think if you look at this most recent concern with the Delta Variant, it’s very clear that the vaccinations available protect you,” said Dr. Richard Charles, who’s the chief medical officer at General Physician P.C.

According to the Erie County Department of Health, as of Thursday, Erie County hospitals had 82 COVID-19 patients, including 16 in the ICU and eight on an airway assist. Two died and 57 percent of the patients were 64 and under.

“If we’re not vaccinating as many people as we thought, that means there’s more Western New Yorkers at risk, and that means potentially more people could be infected,” Dr. Charles said. “I think the big thing about that, is that means a certain number of them are going to get seriously ill, and if you’re unvaccinated you’re far more likely to be in that sub group that gets hospitalized. that has respiratory distress, that could even die.”

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