Erie County has reached another unwelcome milestone in its battle against COVID-19.
Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper reported 111 new cases of COVID-19 and six more deaths Wednesday due to the virus. A total of 503 county residents have died from COVID-19 complications since the pandemic began in March 2020.
“These 503 people do not have the opportunity to make memories with their families,” Dahlkemper said at a Wednesday news conference. “That’s 503 people who will not be celebrating the holidays this year with their loved ones.”
The county’s rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths comes as the highly transmissible delta variant continues to spread through the community.
Fourteen people died from COVID-19 complications in August, the most in a month since February, and nine more have died so far in September.
A total of 56 county residents were hospitalized with COVID-19 Tuesday evening, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. They include 29 patients in intensive care units and nine who needed ventilators.
“What we are seeing now is just as bad as what we saw in 2020, if not worse in some ways,” said Melissa Lyon, Erie County Department of Health director. “We have effective vaccines and we know what mitigation measures help. Still, we are seeing this spike.”
And a growing number of new cases involve children, as 94 pediatric cases were reported between Sept. 2-8, compared to 160 cases between Aug. 16-Sept. 1, according to the state health department.
“Definitely an increase in volume at (UPMC Hamot physician) offices and Express Care,” Danielle Gyorgak, M.D., a pediatrician with UPMC Children’s Community Pediatrics – Hamot, said in an email. “Also seeing a lot of RSV and other viruses still, too.”
A majority of county schools have reported COVID-19 cases among their students and staff, though specific numbers were not available, Lyon said.
“We have received no reports of any large-scale outbreaks at the schools and no reports of Erie County schools having to go remote due to COVID, as of (Tuesday),” Lyon said. “But a lot of schools are reporting cases.”
The county health department is also investigating a complaint that a private school in the county is not following the government mask mandate for schools.
“I can’t identify the school at this time because we are still investigating,” Lyon said.
The county reported an increase in COVID-19 vaccinations from 7,505 doses in July to 10,143 doses in August. Erie hospital officials have attributed part of the increase to people with compromised immune systems being permitted to receive a third dose.
“We have seen a slight increase at our mobile vaccination clinics,” Lyon said. “It’s not many but it is an increase.”
The county’s vaccination rates, based on Census 2020 and county health department data:
- 49.3% of all residents are fully vaccinated,
- 53.3% of all residents have received at least one dose of vaccine,
- 55.6% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated,
- 60.1% of eligible residents have received at least one dose of vaccine.