Doctors tracking COVID-19 trends in Erie County are worried about what's ahead in the months to come.
“I'm quite concerned that we're going to see another wave this fall again roughly the same time when the weather gets cold, when we enter so-called respiratory season," said Dr. Peter Winkelstein, executive director of the Institute for Healthcare Informatics at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo.
Winkelstein says virtually all the cases of COVID-19 in Erie County are from the highly-infectious delta variant. They say the rates of cases and people in the hospital are rising, and higher than they were last year at this time before a wave in the fall.
"Now we're in a situation where there's a lot of virus circulating and we're coming up to the fall," he said. "So those two factors, fall is a dangerous time anyway and we're starting out at a high level of transmission. Those two factors make me quite worried."
Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein says 40% of new cases in the county the past few weeks have been people who are vaccinated. But she says it's still important to get the shot to prevent severe illnesses and hospitalizations. Wearing a mask and social distancing are still recommended in many settings.
"Masking is very, very powerful,” she said. “It is a powerful prevention tool. So whenever you're indoors in a public space, or even outdoors when you're in a crowded area where you're not really sure what everybody's vaccine status is the Billy Joel concert or a Bills game, you should mask and protect yourself and protect the people around you.”
Burstein is also concerned about the virus spreading now that school is back in session. In Los Angeles, they're requiring the vaccine for all eligible students. While that's not the case here at this point, Burstein says the goal is to make sure students are in the classroom five days a week.
"We know that mandating vaccines is the most effective intervention we can to make sure that every single child is vaccinated in the school,” she said. “Remember, it's not about just one individual — it's about the whole community.”
She added that because children don't have a choice, it's up to parents to make the right decisions for them.