Cuomo says fear is behind WNY infection rates, does the science agree?

Andrew Cuomo
Photo credit USA Today Images

(WBEN) - "Western New York never lived the full pain of COVID's wrath."

That was Governor Andrew Cuomo's reasoning for why Western New York is seeing a higher COVID infection rate than New York City and the surrounding areas.

"You wear the masks because you're afraid of COVID," Cuomo told the room of reporters in Albany. "Western New York never felt that same level of reality."

Does the Governor's personal opinion hold up to science?

Chief of Infectious Diseases at the University at Buffalo's Jacobs School of Medicine Dr. Tom Russo has been saying for months that It is likely New York City will attain a lower infection rate going forward not because they adhere better to social distancing or mask wearing mandates better than the rest of the state, but because the virus took a biological toll in the spring.

"I think that the Governor sort of missed that point when he sort of went on his rant with us yesterday," Dr. Russo said.

"Let's say we have a room of 100 people, and the virus shows up. Let's' say that downstate, because they had many more infections, 30 people in that room had already been infected and have protection. When the virus is going around looking for people to infect, it's going to have a lower amount of individuals to infect than say if that party occurred here in Western New York, where only 10 or 15 of those individuals have protection from prior infection."

If you add to that mask-wearing and social distancing practices, there is greater protection to the general public.

"With everything being equal in terms of behavior and mask usage, if you've already had more people who have been infected and have natural immunity, the infection rate of course is going to be lower," Dr. Russo said.

"I think that's something (Cuomo) didn't acknowledge yesterday."

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