Researchers at the University of Buffalo say there is little evidence Erie County will soon experience the two-week downward trend in Covid-19 hospitalizations needed to relax shutdown orders that have kept many businesses closed.
That didn't deter protesters outside Erie County's Rath Building on Friday to press for businesses to open sooner.
About 70 to 80 people stood on the steps outside the county building holding signs and American and Trump flags. Some wore masks, but many did not. Another three dozen vehicles circles around the block, as drivers honked their horns.
The protest was a smaller, less boisterous version of the demonstration the day before that filled the Capitol building in Michigan to protest their governor's state-of-emergency.
The Erie County protesters stayed outside and did not attempt to go inside the Rath building on Franklin Street, where metal barriers were set up and sheriff's deputies and police kept on eye on the crowd.
"Herd immunity now," read one sign that a protester carried.
"We don't need vaccines. We need to work," yelled one man.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has put the state on "pause" until at least May 15. He has indicated that some regions and some kinds of businesses, like construction, may be allowed to start again.
But he pointed out Erie County on Friday for its hospitalization numbers for Covid-19, saying its numbers are higher than even some downstate counties'. More than 250 people are hospitalized in Erie County with Covid-19 as of Wednesday and 270 have died. Nearly 3,500 people have tested positive for the virus in Erie County.
And Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has cast doubt on Erie County re-opening on May 15 as models of the pandemic's spread in Erie County appear to show cases haven't yet plateaued.
Still, the economic impact has been staggering – one of every six local workers has lost their job, at least temporarily, according to a Buffalo News analysis – and protesters said they want to start working again.
The protest appeared to have been organized through Facebook. Jul Thompson, the wife of Rus Thompson who organized a previous "re-opening" protest and is well known for his activism in the Tea Party movement, said she was involved in getting the word out about Friday's demonstration.
Rus Thompson didn't come Friday, she said. "He wants others to step in," she said.
Jul Thompson said that Buffalo and the rest of upstate New York shouldn't have to follow the same regulations as those in New York City. "That's the epicenter," she said.
John Militello of Williamsville was among the demonstrators. The 75-year-old veteran wore a mask and said he's "naturally" concerned about catching Covid-19. But he said his concrete business is "teetering." He thinks outdoor work like his should be allowed. "I don't like government control," he said.
There were no arrests related to the protest. An accident involving a Buffalo police vehicle and one of the protester's vehicles was reported as the demonstration was winding down. Police said no one was injured.