BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – For the second week in a row, Erie County’s Covid numbers have declined. As of last Saturday, the number of new cases declined by 20% from the previous week.

Western New York has finally seen cases drop in recent days after setting new records for positive cases earlier this month. Erie County instituted a mask mandate as a result of the rise in cases.

“We have at least a good story to tell, at least for now which is a decline in cases,” said Erie County County Executive Mark Poloncarz wo, along with Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein provided a COVID-19 update on Tuesday.

Mark Poloncarz says he believes that starting the mask mandate weeks before the rest of NY state made a difference, and at this point there is no need to go to the next phase which would have made vaccines a requirement to serve people in bars and restaurants. “We continue to see a decline in new cases, we continue to see a decline in hospitalizations, not a big decline but a decline and if those trends continue, we should be staying in phase one. there’s no reason to go into phase two.”

But the numbers could go up anytime with the Omicron variant which is likely already here, and although it tends to be less deadly, is three to four times more contagious than the Delta variant, according to Dr. Burstein. “This is a very very rapidly spreading virus, I can’t even remember any virus that I’ve seen spreading so rapidly, even more contagious than the measles.”

That’s why the health commissioner says booster shots are critical for anyone who got their shots at least six months ago. The Erie County Department of Health is bringing shots on the road, without an appointment.

“Mondays, we’ll be in Amherst at the Adult Day Services. Tuesday we’ll be in the City of Buffalo at the Delavan-Grider Community Center. Wednesday, we’re going to be at Chestnut Ridge Park. Thursday, we’ll be at Elma Meadows Park and Fridays, we’re gonna be at the Orchard Park Fire Company,” said Dr. Burstein, referring to a continuing schedule through January. There will be no clinics on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, or New Year’s Day.

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George Richert is an award-winning reporter who first joined the News 4 team in 1998, later returning in 2018. See more of his work here.