BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Data indicate the Western New York region has entered a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Even with an increased number of people getting fully vaccinated, hospitalizations have doubled in the last two and a half weeks, according to statistics provided by New York State.
On Thursday, 297 COVID patients were in a hospital bed in Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, or Allegany County. The day prior, there were 265 such patients. The increase of 32 patients represents the largest one-day jump since mid-November.
Dr. John Crane, an infectious disease expert at the U.B. Jacobs School of Medicine, says the vaccination effort and improving spring weather should help get numbers under control.
“Outdoor activities provide a margin of safety, but it’s not perfectly absolute,” Crane warned.
With senior citizens among the first to be eligible for vaccinations earlier this year, Crane notes a change in the demographics most COVID-19 patients fall into.
“The people that have gotten vaccinated are not the ones for the most part that are coming to our emergency rooms and having to be admitted,” he said. “The people that are having to be admitted seem to be mostly middle-aged and younger adults who were not eligible for the vaccine until just recently.”
In recent weeks, the South African, Californian, and UK variants of concern have all been discovered in samples from Erie County residents. The New York variant of interest is also present, according to the Erie County Department of Health. Crane said the number of people required to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity is increasing because of the more contagious strains.
At ECMC, Dr. Samuel Cloud says the average coronavirus-positive patient is in their 50s. There were 50 total COVID-19 patients there entering Friday, Cloud said, compared to 21 less than two weeks ago.
“It does put a strain on the hospital certainly to have 50 COVID patients,” Cloud said. “Those are 50 patients that we wouldn’t have had over a year ago.”
“I am hopeful that we will, over the next week, start to see hospitalization numbers plateau,” he added, “and not continue this rise we’re seeing now. And then because of vaccinations, over the next couple of weeks beyond that, so maybe three-to-four weeks from now, we’ll start to see a steeper decline because we’re catching up with the vaccinations.”
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.