Erie County could be locked down by Albany again, as early as Wednesday, as its latest COVID-19 cases are well above the levels for "red" status.
Last week, cases and positivity rates had reached the stage where most of the county was put into the limited lockdown of "orange" and the rest into "yellow." In a Monday afternoon briefing, County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said more and more contact tracers are being added and trained to deal with a rising problem.
"We've had, really, an explosion since the beginning of November and the number of specimens that are being tested have also significantly increased. They've actually nearly doubled this month compared to last month," she said. "So we've also seen not just an increase in the number of people testing positive, but the proportion of people testing positive and that's despite an increasing number of people who are testing."
County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the local health system is bearing up relatively well.
"The problem isn't the beds. The problem isn't the PPE. The problem is the staffing," he said. "This is why we all have to be better, because these individuals in he hospitals, these First Responders, these healthcare heroes, have been doing this for months now. While we had a little break in the summer, they still have been dealing with COVID patients in the summer and here they are with the numbers shooting through the roof again."
Poloncarz said if things go very bad, Buffalo's Convention Center could again be turned into an emergency hospital.
"We question whether we have the staff to be able handle those new 200 beds," he said. "We probably would have to have the National Guard bring in hospital units to mobilize and actually handle. I think the putting together of the beds in the hospital, as well as the third-party site, would be a lot easier than actually staffing it, if need be."
Poloncarz said he has to explain to officials in Albany Wednesday why there shouldn't be the lockdown of the red status, since the county's numbers are so far above the red threshhold.