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Erie County officials seek signs of plateau as 26 more residents die of Covid-19

Erie County officials are optimistic about the county's current spot on the coronavirus pandemic curve, enough so to have asked the state to allow hospitals to resume some elective surgeries.

But the state wants more time for more data to be collected so there's a clearer sense about the trajectory of the number of people needing to be hospitalized with Covid-19, County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Monday.

Several key indicators, including hospitalizations and deaths, have recently shown the county may be plateauing in terms of the outbreak. The number of people being treated for Covid-19 at hospitals in the county have been leveling off for roughly the last two weeks, according to state Department of Health data released by the county.

Poloncarz and County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said they expect to see revised modeling this week from the University at Buffalo that takes into account the recent data.

"I'm hopeful that the modeling will be adjusted so that we're at our peak now, but I can't say that's necessarily the case," Poloncarz said.

After consulting with area hospital leaders, the county last week recommended the state allow hospitals to restart elective surgeries, at least on a limited basis, Poloncarz said. The county provided hospitalization data from the last several weeks to members of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's staff and the state Department of Health, he said.

"I think they're just looking for more data," Poloncarz said when asked what state officials are looking for before they approve the request. The state wants to see the region is either at its peak or going down, he said.

Because the hospitalization data "looks like it's flattening out and reaching a plateau," Burstein said she believes updated modeling "will look different."

"We do feel optimistic that the curve is changing and it will look in a more favorable light in terms of what we can expect and what the hospitals can expect in terms of being able to meet the community's needs with their hospital capacity," she said.

Hospitals have been hit hard financially due to the pandemic, in part because Cuomo ordered a halt to elective surgeries last month as part of the state's response to the outbreak.

Last week, hospitals in much of Western New York – not including Erie County – were given the green light to resume some elective surgeries starting Tuesday. Those allowed to resume were able to show the state they would be able to handle a potential surge in Covid-19 cases.

The number of patients with Covid-19 in hospitals in Erie County had been decreasing for five days, but increased slightly on Saturday, according to the latest data from the state Department of Health.

Another streak also was snapped Saturday when hospital admissions for Covid-19 exceeded the number of people discharged, county officials said Monday. The hospital discharges of Covid-19 patients had exceeded new admissions each day from April 21 through Friday.

Regardless of what the modeling ultimately says, Poloncarz warned that life in Erie County won't be getting back to normal for some time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned about multiple waves of the Covid-19 outbreak, and Erie County is still in its first wave with a long way before a vaccine is available, Poloncarz said.

"So I'm looking at this as the beginning. We're still in the beginning," he said. "Are we in the middle of the beginning? I don't know. I'd like to think we're in the middle of the beginning, but this is not going away."

Erie County announced 113 new confirmed Covid-19 cases on Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the county to 3,109. The deaths of 26 more Erie County residents also were announced Monday, as the county's death toll grew to 233 people. The 26 deaths include people who died from Saturday through Monday, Poloncarz said.

The only Covid-19-related deaths reported over the weekend in the eight counties of Western New York were nine additional deaths of Erie County residents reported Saturday.

Western New York's death toll through early Monday evening was 277 people.

Niagara County officials on Monday announced 16 new confirmed Covid-19 cases and no additional deaths.

[Related: Where Western New York's coronavirus cases are, county by county]

[Related: Erie County's Covid-19 cases by town, date, age, gender]

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

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