Sewage, and Covid tests indicate Erie County is close to “substantial risk” category


BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) — The latest numbers released on Thursday afternoon show that Erie County now has 48 Covid cases per 100,000 residents. If and when it reaches 50, that brings Erie County into the “substantial risk” category when all County workers will have to wear masks while on duty except when they’re alone at their desks.

Even though fully vaccinated workers have been able to go mask-free in recent weeks, most of the 600 blue-collar workers represented by AFSCME Local 1095 have remained masked up near co-workers in buildings and vehicles.

“I understand the rationale behind it,” said Rich Canazzi, president of the Local 1095. “People don’t like change, people are hesitant. They have their own beliefs on whether or not this is a legitimate concern, but it’s up to the government to protect its employees and I can’t fault the county for doing what they’re doing. They seem to be following the guidelines.”

Dr. Ian Bradley, in conjunction with the University at Buffalo’s School of Engineering, has been tracing higher amounts of Covid in the sewage treatment plants in recent weeks, especially in the Buffalo, and Amherst stations.

“We have been seeing increases over the last two weeks,” said Dr. Bradley. “With Delta (variant), we know a lot more people are shedding this virus, so expect that over if we start seeing increases in cases over the next week or two, we’re gonna see very high increases in the wastewater much more than 25 or 50%. We’ll see very large increases as people are shedding more.”

Both Federal and New York State workers will soon be mandated to get vaccinated or tested regularly. It may also be just a matter of time before City of Buffalo employees faces the same mandate.

“If it were that it came down from the Mayor, so be it,” said Darius Pridgen, president of the Common Council. “I am not going to wage war on who has to make a decision. At the end of the day a decision is going to have to be made.”

News 4 inquired with the Buffalo Mayor’s office about the possibility of a vaccine mandate. We received the following response from Spokesman Michael DeGeorge;

“The Mayor is considering changes in Covid protocols in compliance with the latest CDC guidance, including mask-wearing in all common areas, but the administration will be talking to City government partners and municipal labor unions before any changes are announced.”

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.

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