Local health expert addresses new COVID variant concerns

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BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) – The Delta variant has people worried and wondering if this will prompt face mask requirements to go back into effect.

Local infectious disease expert Dr. Thomas Russo with the Jacobs School of Medicine at UB says because a large percentage of the population is vaccinated, infection rates are low, which could prevent another mask mandate.

“I think the likelihood that we’ll have another lockdown here or universal mask usage in New York State is very low,” Dr. Russo said. “That’s largely due to the fact that we’ve done pretty well with the vaccination phase and our case numbers are low.”

Dr. Russo doesn’t believe restrictions will make a comeback in New York state. Meanwhile, the governor of Illinois and health officials in Los Angeles are asking people to mask up, regardless of whether they’ve received the vaccine. This is only a recommendation, but it comes after most restrictions have been lifted nationwide.

Here in in Western New York, residents don’t want to see progress change.

“I mean it’ll be a little depressing for sure,” Buffalo resident Ben Risenberg said. “From my perspective we were wearing masks for about a year plus so I would have no issue putting it back on.”

“Well, that would be unfortunate, because we’ve come out of a very long year,” said Buffalo resident Andrew Sutherland.

“I’d be pretty bummed out about it,” RC Kinzly said.

Dr. Russo says the best way to prevent a surge in cases from the Delta variant is by getting vaccinated.

“In countries where vaccination rates are low, the delta variant is spreading very rapidly,” he said.

Russo said both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine work against the Delta variant.

“If you’re in that unvaccinated minority, this variant is very infectious and it’s going to find you so this is the window with low case numbers to go ahead and get vaccinated so that you’ll protect yourselves and loved ones before the cooler weather hits where cases will likely be on the rise,” Dr. Russo said.

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

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