ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County celebrated the end of National Guard Support at local hospitals during the COVID emergency on Thursday.

While the guard has departed because the extra help is no longer needed, officials say that doesn’t mean COVID is no longer relevant in our community.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello presented a plaque to the national guard team to thank them for their time and service.

“We can’t let them leave without saying thank you,” Bello said, “We owe them a huge thank you for the time they took away from their families from their jobs.”

With the National Guard’s departure, Bello said it’s a sign of things getting better.

“COVID exacerbated a healthcare staffing crisis that predated the pandemic. And the National Guard soldiers answered that call to service in a desperate time of need,” Bello said.

While COVID is still prevalent in the community, Monroe County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza says all the precautions that have been put in place are working.

Dr. Mendoza also warns while the symptoms that come along with the new variant may be mild, there is still a heightened risk for long-covid and the repercussions that follow.

“While the numbers look a little higher, the reality is that this current surge is much milder than previous ones,” Dr. Mendoza said.

According to the Department of Public Health dashboard, COVID-19 cases in Monroe County seem to be trending downwards. Two weeks ago, the county was averaging around 600 cases per day for the 7-day average. Last week, it was around 500 cases, and this week, it dropped to 400.

However, Dr. Mendoza said it’s time to move past case numbers. Now that at-home tests are more prevalent than ever, reporting case number data will not be as accurate as it once was.

“I would much rather convey the reality that this is a milder surge in general, and take the emphasis off those case numbers. That being said, the hospitalization numbers are also more important probably now than before,” Mendoza said, “Our recommendation is still a very strong one. So we’re not taking our hands off the wheel here, we are saying, if you feel you’re at risk, we strongly recommend that you wear a mask.”

Precautions are still in place but Dr. Mendoza doesn’t want that to discourage families from enjoying the summer.

“This will be the first summer for many that will feel more normal than any other in the last three years. So I want to encourage people to get out, enjoy what Monroe County has to offer,” Mendoza said.

The county health commissioner also mentioned the current state of hospitals in our area which are still feeling the effects of the pandemic, including nursing home residents who are still in their care. To alleviate that stress, the county has reconvened its long-term care task force in hopes of finding a long-term solution for those residents.