ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Erie County Department of Health is cautioning residents to reconsider spring break travel and reduce COVID-10 risks at holiday celebrations with Easter coming up this weekend.
Last week was a record for the number of local students infected with Covid, this week broke that record at 339 school cases and counting. Even though kids don’t seem to get serious symptoms at the same rate as adults, they can get, and they can spread it especially on a holiday weekend.
“The CDC guidelines say that fully vaccinated persons can basically intermingle in a family unit with younger people who are not vaccinated if their not symptomatic, however this doesn’t mean that fully vaccinated people should hug anyone else,” said Dr. Mark Hicar, associate professor of pediatrics at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Buffalo. “So they shouldn’t be hugging everyone on the airplane, they should keep wearing their masks because it’s unlikely they’ll spread to their family, but we don’t ant it to happen.”
The Erie County Health Department indicates that about a third of those infected locally now seem to be carrying one of three new variants detected here; the ‘California’ strain is 20% more contagious, the United Kingdom’ strain is 50% more transmissible, and one called B.1.526 seems to have originated in New York State.
“People who have infections with those variant strains are much more contagious than the Covid strains that were circulating earlier in the year and at the end of last year, so that means we have to really step up our preventive behavior,” said Dr. Gale Burstein. “If you’re gonna get together with friends, which I’m sure on the holidays you will, smaller is safer and outdoor is safer than indoor, so whatever people can do.”
Officials are strongly encouraging faith leaders to review safety plans and operations in advance of services this weekend.
For in-person gatherings, ECDOH says faith leaders should encourage face mask use for all attendees, follow state guidance on cleaning and social distancing, and consider outdoor services.
Department of Health officials are offering guidance on family celebrations as well, saying if unvaccinated people or children are present, face masks should be worn.
“Despite the changing Western New York weather, ECDOH recommends outdoor activities and meals, as well as disposable plates and utensils. And as with all activities, anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or who feels ill should stay home,” the county health department wrote in a release.
The ECDOH says it also fielded questions about travel plans for spring break or other travel out of state.
While New York State no longer requires individuals returning from domestic travel to quarantine or “test out” of quarantine, the county says it’s experiencing a high rate of COVID-19 transmission.
“Air travel and travel in states that do not require the use of masks will put travelers at risk for COVID-19 exposure, and traveling Erie County residents may put others at risk of exposure,” the ECDOH said.
County health officials say travelers returning should consider staying home when possible and avoid close contact with older adults, individuals with chronic medical conditions, and unvaccinated people for ten days past their return.
They also recommend diagnostic testing five to seven days past the last date of exposure or travel.