BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) – Even though hospitalizations have largely stabilized thanks to social distancing in Erie County, analytical experts are presenting a bleak outlook to an early reopening of Western New York with the latest models of the pandemic.
While experts from the University at Buffalo said the region “dodged bullets” thanks to early social distancing efforts that data showed lowered the number of projected hospitalizations, they predict an extended plateau of coronavirus in Erie County.
“Things will remain pretty flat for a long time,” Dr. Peter Winkelstein, Executive Director of the Institute for Healthcare Informatics at UB, said. “This virus is not going away any time soon. It’s not going to suddenly disappear. If we maintain the social distancing, things will stay relatively flat.”
“We know we’re going to be relaxing social distancing at some point,” he said. “When we release social distancing, we’re going to see a rise in the number of cases. If we don’t do anything about that, we’re in danger again of putting the health system at risk and putting us all at risk.”
He said that the region must open intelligently, meaning businesses must be diligent about maintaining social distancing. Winkelstein said people must take individual responsibility, including wearing masks in public, and that the region needs increased testing and strong contact tracing.
“We’re going to be sitting at this new normal for a long time,” he said. “The virus is with us. It’s not going anywhere. We have to deal with it for a long time. Social distancing is critical.”
Winkelstein said it’s hard to predict exactly when we will get beyond the pandemic but said we should begin thinking of it “at least in terms of months and probably years”.
“The virus is not going anywhere tomorrow,” Winkelstein said. “It’s not going anywhere next month. This is my opinion, at the rate that we’re going, we’re not going to be developing a whole lot of so-called herd immunity where a large fraction of the population is immune to this virus for a long time. It probably doesn’t really start to get better until we have a vaccine.”