May 31, 2023

Contra Mare

Slick Healthy

Infectious diseases expert: Don’t let your guard down on COVID

2 On Your Side’s MaryAlice Demler talked with Dr. Thomas Russo, the chief of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo, about COVID.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — It feels like the COVID pandemic is nearly behind us, but that does not mean we can let our guard down.

2 On Your Side’s MaryAlice Demler talked Friday with Dr. Thomas Russo, the chief of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo.

Demler: Dr. Russo, COVID cases have been going up in Erie County the past few weeks. What do you make of that? Did we see a similar trend last April?

Dr. Russo: We did see a similar trend last April, and that was due to the fact that we have the St. Paddy’s Day school break. Easter gatherings then drove up cases. We’re seeing a similar trend this year, but fortunately the bump in cases is less, though we’ve seen a more significant increase over the last few days.

And this has really been driven by a loosening of restrictions, people gathering indoors without masks, and so there are still some groups that need to be careful and those of the unvaccinated, particularly if you haven’t been infected with Omicron. Those eligible for a booster, but yet to receive it, particularly if you’re 50 and older, pregnant, or have significant underlying disease and the immunocompromised.

Demler: That was my next question, because we haven’t seen you in a while. So your best advice about getting the latest booster shot that’s available is not an automatic, but it’s really mostly for those folks who you just mentioned.

Dr. Russo: If you’re yet to be vaccinated, please do so, that’s most important. And if you’re eligible for that third booster shot, and yet to receive it, please get that as well. It’s also been approved a fourth shot for the immunocompromised, I strongly recommend that they receive that fourth shot, and for (people ages) 50 to 59.

Demler: And finally, for the most part, it’s the Omicron sub variant. That’s the strain infecting most people right now is there another variant and another part of the world making its way here that we know of?

Dr. Russo: There’s some variants that are recombinations of the Delta and Omicron variants, and there’s recombination variants of BA.1 and BA.2. But so far, they don’t seem to have landed here in Western New York or New York State, but we’re keeping a close eye on them. Whether they’ll prove to be problematic remains to be seen.