ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — COVID-19 coronavirus has reached our area.
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza confirmed the first case of the virus in Monroe County late Wednesday night.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office erroneously reported the second confirmed case at a press conference Thursday, but officials have since retracted that number.
“As we’ve said here for a while now, it wasn’t a matter of if, but when the virus would arrive here — and we’ve been preparing for this,” Bello said at a press conference Thursday morning.
According to Dr. Mendoza, the original patient, a man, flew into JFK from Rome, Italy on Tuesday, and from there, took ground transportation back to Rochester.
“At this point, we are interviewing the individual and trying to understand what happened between there and here,” the health commissioner said.
Dr. Mendoza said once the patient arrived home, he contacted the Department of Health, underwent self isolation, and was tested for the virus later that day by doctors at Highland Hospital.
“Highland was chosen primarily out of patient preference, we could have easily sent the individual to any hospital,” Dr. Mendoza said.
The test was sent to the Erie County Department of Public Health, and results arrived “late Wednesday” according to Bello, who says preventative procedures were implemented immediately. Bello and Dr. Mendoza first announced the confirmed coronavirus case to the public via a press release at 11:15 p.m. Wednesday.
“We are preparing for the worst, but we are praying for the best,” said Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren at Thursday’s press conference.
As a preventative measure, the Rochester St. Patrick’s Day Parade, scheduled for Saturday, has been suspended. Since the announcement of the confirmed local case, a number of concerts, sporting events, and gatherings have been canceled.
“This is the best way to deal with the issue — to not have the parade on Saturday,” Warren said. “We’re going to follow the medical director’s guidance.
Dr. Mendoza says the patient has been cooperative and the health commissioner added that he is confident the virus was contracted while in Italy, and there is no example of local transmission at this time.
“We are anticipating, at some point, seeing evidence of community transmission and we are preparing for that,” Dr. Mendoza said.
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Dr. Mendoza says health officials are now performing “contact tracing” — getting in touch with all the patient’s closest contacts and making sure they are isolated. Dr. Mendoza says the county is undertaking surveillance measures to monitor all of these individuals in quarantine.
Dr. Mendoza urged the public to consider “concerted social distancing” and to reconsider gatherings of more than 50 people.
Officials say there is no relation to this confirmed case to the students being quarantined at SUNY Brockport.
Officials say the risk of infection remains low in Monroe County, but add that vulnerable groups include senior citizens, people with compromised immune system, and people with underlying sickness.
“The next few weeks are going to be tough so we all have to look out,” said Dr. Bilal Ahmed of Highland Hospital. “The people to look out for is the elderly — those are the people who do not do well with this infection.”
Dr. Mendoza says if someone is worried about the virus, the very first call they should make is to their primary care doctor. If someone doesn’t have a primary care doctor, Dr. Mendoza says they can reach out directly to the Monroe County Department of Public Health.
“Because this has been slow to arrive in Rochester, we are better equipped to handle it,” Mayor Warren said.
Dr. Mendoza says at this time there are 50 quarantined people in Monroe County.
County Executive Bello says he has been in contact with Wegmans officials about supplies. Area Wegmans stores have implemented purchasing limits on certain products over concerns of the coronavirus.
“I’ve met with Wegmans officials, just earlier this week, about their supply chain,” Bello said. “One of my concerns that I expressed is that we need to make sure that access to food, supplies, and just as importantly, pharmacies.”
COVID-19 coronavirus continues to dominate headlines. As of Thursday afternoon, New York state’s confirmed cases exceeded 300, No. 2 in the national only to Washington state. Additionally, it was announced that SUNY, and CUNY schools would begin implementing “distance learning measures” amid the outbreak.
Officials from other area colleges, like University of Rochester and the Rochester Institute of Technology also said they would be pursuing virtual classes as a way of preventing the spread of the virus.
Nationally, the NBA has suspended its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus, President Donald Trump has suspended travel from the U.S. to Europe, and actor Tom Hanks has announced he too has the virus. The New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade has also been cancelled.
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Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.