The curve for Covid-19 hospitalizations in Erie County appears to be "flattening," as the county Friday also updated its testing protocol for the illness.
The number of people in Erie County hospitalized due to Covid-19 continues to increase, but the rate of increase has apparently slowed, according to statistics released by the Erie County Department of Health.
Erie County on Friday also added 66 confirmed Covid-19 cases, bringing the total for the pandemic to 1,506 as of Friday night.
The latest hospitalization numbers released Friday, which reflect conditions on Wednesday, show the highest totals to date of the number of people hospitalized and the number of people in intensive care due to Covid-19, County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted.
"While it is still growing, it is flattening compared to 10 days ago," Poloncarz wrote on Twitter.
According to data released March 27 by the county, there were 49 people hospitalized, 20 of whom were in intensive care.
The figures released Friday report 223 people are hospitalized with 124 in intensive care.
The data comes from information reported by hospitals to the state Department of Health.
Fifty-seven Erie County residents have died due to Covid-19 as of Friday night, according to county officials.
Public health officials have said among the greatest concerns in the pandemic would be if the illness spreads to the point where hospitals become overwhelmed with patients and can't keep up with the capacity.
Earlier this week, Poloncarz said predictive modeling estimates Erie County's peak is "still weeks off."
Health officials have encouraged the public to continue the practice of social distancing and other measures to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, which would help minimize the potential strain on hospital capacity.
To be considered for testing for Covid-19 by the Erie County Public Health Laboratory, the county Department of Health is no longer requiring individuals to obtain a request from a doctor or another health care provider, the health department announced Friday. The department still recommends anyone who has fever, cough, shortness of breath or other symptoms to contact a doctor for medical advice.
Those interested in requesting a test are asked to call 858-2929 and select option “2.” The department will be scheduling sample collection at sites within Erie County for next week, the department said in a news release. Individuals will be notified of test results by phone.
Under what the department called updated testing protocol, the following individuals who are symptomatic are being prioritized:
- Hospital and community health care workers
- Firefighters, police, EMTs and state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision personnel
- Household members and other contacts of hospital workers and community health care workers
- Hospital and community medical facility staff
- Persons receiving dialysis or infusion therapy
As area hospitals have been able to offer more tests and with the county lab having "a steady supply" of testing materials, the county has been able to revise its protocol, health department spokeswoman Kara Kane said in an email.
"This update is part of our community’s strategy for testing," Kane said.
On March 25, the criteria to be considered for tests at the county lab were: being a health care worker or someone who was "posing risks" to health care workers, including symptomatic individuals who are hospital inpatients; individuals living in a congregate setting for vulnerable groups, including nursing homes, prisons and group homes; members of law enforcement; and symptomatic women who have recently given birth or who are close to giving birth.
At that time, those not being recommended for testing were: individuals already under quarantine who develop mild illnesses; individuals with known confirmed exposure who do not have severe underlying conditions or were not severely ill; asymptomatic individuals who have had contact with people with confirmed cases; and persons who were mildly ill who do not live in congregate settings.
As the number of all types of drug overdoses has been on the rise in Erie County and in other parts of Western New York, free naloxone/Narcan kits will be distributed Saturday at the Broadway Market, 999 Broadway.
The Erie County Health Department will be distributing the kits from 8:30 a.m. to noon from a booth between Lupas Meats and the Seafood Store, the department said Friday.
Naloxone, which is also known by the brand name, Narcan, is used to treat suspected opioid overdoses.