ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza held their weekly COVID-19 briefing Thursday afternoon as the virus continues to surge in the community.
A day after Monroe County had record breaking coronavirus numbers for new cases, active cases, and virus hospitalizations, the health commissioner announced more COVID-19 records were broken for Thursday’s update.
“We will be announcing 654 new cases here in Monroe County and very sadly we are going to also be reporting 19 new fatalities,” Dr. Mendoza said. “These fatalities span a period of time between November 23 through November 30.”
To date, the virus has claimed the lives of 347 Monroe County residents. The health commissioner said if the situation is going to improve, the community will need to cooperate.
In addition to 654 new cases and 19 new deaths, health department officials said 470 people in the Finger Lakes region are hospitalized with the virus — the highest number to date — including 93 in the hospital, which increased by 10 since 24 hours prior.
“At the end of the day we need to work together, we need to change our behavior,” Dr. Mendoza said. “Please wear your mask, please maintain your physical distance. Please be thoughtful about who you’re gathering with. To be frank, now is simply the time to stop gathering outside your household.”
With Thursday’s update, Monroe County has had 3,350 new COVID-19 cases in just a six-day span, by far the largest spike the county has seen since the pandemic began. The surge in local cases has put a strain on Rochester’s primary hospital systems.
“What you’ve heard is that our hospitals are starting to fill up and that COVID is having a real impact,” Bello said. “The message around this cannot be any more clear: Either we’re part of the solution or we’re not. We can either choose to wear a mask, maintain social distancing, limit our gatherings to 10 people or less — or not.”
The health commissioner says the recent string of record breaking COVID-19 numbers is the beginning of the anticipated post-Thanksgiving spike.
“I think that this is the beginning of the Thanksgiving surge,” Dr. Mendoza said. “In the coming days I think we’re going to see continuing numbers from the Thanksgiving weekend, the numbers will go up. I told my staff here at the health department to plan for an additional 100-150 cases per day, at least.”
The health commissioner says if you test positive, you should isolate, and if you got a test that isn’t a rapid test, you should isolate until you receive results. He said that some people in the community have shown disinterest in cooperating with the health department’s efforts.
“There are frankly people who are just not interested in cooperating,” Dr. Mendoza said. “We get foul language, hung up on.”
The county executive said what happens here depends on the individual actions of community members.
“We need total community support, and community buy-in to ensure that our hospitals are not overwhelmed, so businesses can stay open, so children can stay in schools, and so public health is not compromised,” Bello said. “We’re about three quarters of the way through the race, we can see the finish line, there’s a vaccine on the horizon, but it all comes down to the finish of the race — it all comes down to the last quarter mile.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that, pending FDA approval, New York state would receive its first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine as early as December 15. The initial delivery will be about 170,000 doses, with priority given to nursing home residents and staff as well as patients and staff at hospital ICU units and COVID wings.
The county executive reiterated that there is free, rapid testing COVID-19 sites throughout orange zone areas in Monroe County, including the City of Rochester.
“I think that with the increase in the number of testing and testing availability, it’s a good thing to help find these cases in the community,” Bello said. “Get people isolated, get people quarantined before they can spread to others around them.”
Watch the full briefing:
The county executive said the health department has received approval for 100 new COVID-19 positions to assist with the recent spike.
“We recently received approval from civil service to create an additional 100 COVID positions,” Bello said. “Available immediately and to help with tasks like data entry, registering people, following up on isolation, quarantine orders, contact tracing, and more. These are critical positions that are necessary to help us respond.”
Health department officials reported that the countywide seven-day rolling average positivity rate was 6.47%. As of Wednesday, the orange zone in Monroe County had a seven-day rolling average positivity rate of 6.94% and the yellow zone was 6.42%, according to Gov. Cuomo’s office.
“If we all stop right now and all come together as a community and go back to what we did before — go back to wearing a mask and back to being together on Zoom, Facetime, drive-bys — we will flatten the curve, but it has to start now,” Bello said.
“I’m not asking for everybody to drastically change their behavior, I’m asking everybody to just do a little bit more,” Dr. Mendoza said. “If we just do a little bit more, this community will achieve a lot more together.”
In a briefing with local officials from the University of Rochester Medical Center and Rochester Regional Health, Mendoza said on Wednesday the area is facing a taller curve and warned about the hospitalizations overwhelming the healthcare providers.
“A phrase we haven’t used in months: Flatten the curve,” Dr. Mendoza said Wednesday. “The curve represented bed capacity, but more importantly the ability to provide for our community’s critical needs. We are in a different place now, we face an even greater risk. Our health care workers are tired, and like you, they are frustrated.”
Ages of Thursday’s new reported cases are as follows:
|14||Female under 10|
|15||Male under 10|
|70||Female in her 20s|
|38||Male in his 20s|
|49||Female in her 30s|
|46||Male in his 30s|
|47||Female in her 40s|
|37||Male in his 40s|
|2||Blank in 40s|
|49||Female in her 50s|
|49||Male in his 50s|
|32||Female in her 60s|
|30||Male in his 60s|
|1||Blank in 60s|
|21||Female in her 70s|
|18||Male in his 70s|
|26||Female in her 80s|
|17||Male in his 80s|
|15||Female in her 90s|
|4||Male in his 90s|
|654||TOTAL NEW CASES|
Check back with News 8 WROC as we continue to update this developing story.