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Erie County's death toll rises to 19, Covid-19 cases jump by 131

With seven more deaths, the Covid-19 outbreak hit Erie County harder on Thursday than on any other day so far.

The county's death toll reached 19 as of Thursday evening. With 131 new confirmed cases as of the same time, the latest batch broke the previous daily record of 90 set on Tuesday.

Erie County appears to be seeing the start of the "acceleration phase" of the pandemic locally, Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said.

"It just confirms that we are moving along the curve heading towards our peak, unfortunately," Burstein said. "This is going to be a long journey. We're just at the beginning.

"These numbers may seem huge to us right now," she said. "In a week's time they'll be, I can't even say, like 10, 20, 30, 100 times more than they are right now."

The number of Covid-19-related deaths in Western New York hit 23 as of Thursday afternoon. The number of confirmed cases across the eight counties of Western New York reached 896 as of early Thursday evening.

Niagara County also reported its largest single-day increase in confirmed cases Thursday. The 26 new cases announced by county officials put Niagara's total at 91 confirmed cases. The previous one-day high came Monday when 13 new cases were announced.

"I wish I could say I was surprised, but I'm not," Niagara County Public Health Director Daniel J. Stapleton said.

[Related: Erie County's COVID-19 cases, by town, day]

As of Wednesday night, there were 128 people hospitalized in Erie County, with 61 of those in intensive care, county officials announced. As Thursday evening, 101 Erie County residents diagnosed with Covid-19 have recovered.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Thursday that the coronavirus had spread to all of New York's 62 counties, with a statewide total of 92,381 cases and 2,373 deaths, a high concentration of which comes from the New York City metropolitan area.

Erie County announced its first confirmed cases of Covid-19 on March 13 and its first Covid-related death on March 24.

Given this area is likely behind the New York City area by about two to four weeks in terms of the outbreak's magnitude, Burstein said, one way to look at the situation is that people here have the time to act to lessen the potential future impact.

"We have some time on our hands right now and we have to use that well," Burstein said.

The broadest recommendation that everyone should follow is to continue social distancing practices, she said.

"It’s not just sitting around and going out with your friends and waiting for the bomb to drop," Burstein said. "What we do now is going to affect what our life will be like in two to four weeks."

[Related: See Erie County's map of where Covid-19 cases are]

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