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Erie County sets new record for Covid-19 – again

Erie County sets new record for Covid-19 – again

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The number of people in Erie County infected with Covid-19 scaled new heights again Wednesday, setting an all-time high for the third day in a row.

The 2,820 confirmed cases, with an overall positivity rate of 20.1%, means over the past week the county has set a new high water mark for daily cases four times.

Over the past seven days, 1% of all county residents tested positive. 

Wednesday's numbers don't include results from 224 home test kits reported to the Erie County Department of Health, much less the thousands of other kits flying off store shelves, the results of which weren't reported.

The number of people infected Wednesday topped the 2,252 cases reported Tuesday and the 1,612 announced the day before that, the health department said.

Prior to Dec. 24, the only other time during the pandemic that infections in one day topped 1,000 was the 1,032 reported on Jan. 6, 2021. 

Despite the alarming spike in cases, officials continued to express hope that the Omicron variant fueling the surge will not cause as many serious illnesses among those infected.

"Let's hope that the Omicron variant, while much more transmissible than previous Covid-19 strains, does in fact create a milder illness for those that are vaccinated, as has been reported," County Executive Mark Poloncarz said in a statement.

"If not, based on the recent new daily case counts, our hospitals will get overrun," he said. 

Health officials across the world observing the Omicron tidal wave in Southern Africa, where it was first detected in late November, and the United Kingdom, another early hot spot, noted an unprecedented spike in cases that ebbed after a few weeks, but a much smaller increase in hospitalizations and deaths relative to other points in the pandemic.

So far, hospitalization rates in Western New York are down, with a 22% decrease over the past two weeks. At other points in the pandemic, an increase in the number of hospitalizations and deaths hasn't materialized until weeks after a spike in new cases.

There were 408 people hospitalized with the virus in Erie County on Dec. 28, according to the health department. That's down from 521 on Dec. 14. Still, the sharp increase in cases led Erie County Medical Center to ban nearly all patient visitation starting Friday.

Erie County also doesn't stand out in New York for Covid infections. On Tuesday, 11 other counties and the five New York City boroughs had positivity rates of 20% or higher, led by the Bronx with nearly 28% and Orange County at 26%. That day, Erie County stood at 18.5%, and was one of nine counties in the state with more than 2,000 new cases.

The highest positivity rates in the state are in the New York City area and a few Southern Tier and Hudson Valley counties.  

Mark Sommer covers preservation, development, the waterfront, culture and more. He's also a former arts editor at The News. 

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