Bello, Dr. Mendoza on COVID-19 in Monroe County: We are going in the wrong direction


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Public Health Dr. Michael Mendoza gave an update on the pandemic during their weekly coronavirus briefing Thursday.

Last week Bello and Dr. Mendoza warned that the county was entering another surge of COVID-19. They said that trend upward continues this week.

“The seven-day average positivity rate has more than doubled what it was last month on March 15, when we were at 1.5%,” Bello said Thursday. “A month ago we had a seven day average of 111 new cases per day, and now we’re up to 258. You can see us heading back up the curve.”

While new cases and positivity rates are trending up, the county executive said that hospitals and ICUs have not seen as dramatic of a spike, but still an increase.

“180 people in the region are hospitalized, 48 in ICU this week,” Bello said. “Last week we were at 161 hospitalized, 32 in the ICU.”

The county executive said the vaccination appointments were expanding.

“This week we are excited to announce that service has been expanded to all of Monroe County for appointments at the county-operated Rochester Riverside Convention Center,” Bello said. “We’re making it easier for those without internet access to make their life-saving appointment, so now any Monroe County resident, regardless of where you live, can call the COVID-19 hotline at 585-753-555 to make their COVID-19 vaccine appointment at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, 226,825 Monroe County residents were fully vaccinated, and 322,474 had received at least one dose — 43.4% of the county population.

The county executive said now is the time to schedule a vaccine appointment if you haven’t already, so more people can be vaccinated for the upcoming summer months.

“We are five or six weeks away from summer, so we are five or six weeks away from those summer activities, those festivals, those parades that we all want to get back to — so now is the time to think about getting that vaccine,” Bello said. It’s the most effective way to end this pandemic. Together we can end it and get back to normal.”

On Tuesday, Mendoza announced the suspension of the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, following reports of potentially dangerous blood clots.

Despite Tuesday’s development on the J&J shot, the health commissioner said these instances of reported blood clots are extremely rare, and that Monroe County residents should continue the process of getting vaccinated as soon as possible.

The health commissioner addressed some of the ongoing efforts regarding reopening schools. On this topic, Bello and Dr. Mendoza are participating in a town hall on News 8 Thursday at 5:30 p.m. specifically focused on educational and school reopening topics.

“Basically any school that wishes to reopen more fully under these guidelines is creating contract with the state agreeing to abide by these rules,” Mendoza said. “Schools will need to post the plan on their website, then send a copy to the state and local departments of heath. First, we will work with the school to help determine the best metric to determine the risk.”

The health commissioner said school reopening was complicated by rising local COVID-19 rates.

“No matter what metrics we look at today, the number of positive cases in Monroe County is going in the wrong direction, as is the hospitalization rate.

“COVID-19 variants which are known to behave differently than the original virus, and that must be taken into the equation when we calculate our potential risk,” Dr. Mendoza said. “Cases among school age children are climbing and we don’t yet have a vaccine for children under 16, so I urge school communities to proceed with caution making sure to adhere to the state guidance and do everything we can to continue keeping schools the safe place for our children to be during this pandemic.

“Now is not the time to throw caution to the wind,” Dr. Mendoza said. “I am eager to see schools open more fully and as more and more of us are vaccinated, we will see the rate of community restrictions drop and see the benefits that follow — and make no mistake, vaccines remain the best tool, by far, for us to get there.”

This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will provide updates as they become available.

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