Bello, Dr. Mendoza: ‘Test to stay’ approved for Monroe County schools


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza hosted a coronavirus briefing Thursday afternoon to update residents on the pandemic.

Bello reported 471 new COVID-19 cases in Monroe County Thursday, bringing the county’s seven-day average to 430 new cases per day, a decrease and increase from last week’s 550 and 370, respectively.

“As we’ve seen before, a rise in cases is translating in a rise in hospitalizations,” Bello said. “I can say that the overwhelming majority of these patients have not received vaccination.”

According to county officials, 336 patients are hospitalized and 97 in the ICU throughout the Finger Lakes were reported Thursday.

In an effort to help ensure residents they will be safe when gathering for the upcoming holiday season, Adam Bello announced an expansion to Monroe County’s testing sites with three new locations for free rapid antigen tests.

Mon & Wed 10am-1pm,
Pittsford Plaza, Former Stein Mart – 3349 Monroe Ave, Rochester, NY 14618
Preregistration is suggested
Click Here to Preregister

Mon & Tue & Wed 4-7pm
Former Walgreens – 804 North Goodman, Rochester, NY 14609
Preregistration is suggested
Click Here to Preregister

Tuesday’s 10am-1pm
Greece Ridge, Former Bed, Bath and Beyond – 
112 Greece Ridge Center Dr., Rochester, NY 14623
Preregistration is suggested
Click Here to Preregister

Monroe County officials also reported that more than 700 appointments will be made available for pediatric vaccination. All minors are required to be accompanied by a parent or guardian at all vaccine sites.

As of Thursday, Monroe County has performed 1,205 total rapid tests for school aged children.

“Out of all those, there were 79 positive results,” Bello said. “That means more than 1,100 children can go back to school the following day, without having to wait multiple days to return to the classroom.

Dr. Mendoza also announced the approval of test to stay for Monroe County schools, after the New York State Health Department issued guidance that gives local health departments more autonomy in regards to how COVID-19 protocols work in schools.

According to state officials, test to stay is a mitigation strategy that allows unvaccinated close contacts of people with COVID-19 to avoid school exclusion by testing negative with a rapid NAAT or antigen test on each school day for seven days after exposure.

  1. The school/district must have a written protocol that: (A) Considers equity (i.e., families should not have to pay for testing, or if they do, then the inability to pay should not prevent a student from being eligible for TTS), (B) includes actions to follow-up on transmission (e.g., contact tracing) in the event that an individual tests positive, and (C) other factors deemed essential or important by the LHD or school.
  2. The daily test must be conducted and the results received before the school day begins, and positive individuals excluded/isolated per existing procedures.
  3. If the test is done in an unmonitored setting (e.g., home), a mechanism to ensure that the test is done correctly and on the correct person must exist.
  4. The exposed person who is allowed to remain in school through TTS must still be quarantined outside of school instruction/academic periods (on weekends/holidays when the seven-day TTS period is still active, but no school test is required; after school/evenings; no community activities or extracurricular participation including clubs, sports, arts/performance activities, etc.).
  5. If the exposed person who is allowed to remain in school through TTS develop”

To note: The test to stay strategy allows close contacts of infected people to avoid school exclusion, but not other parameters of quarantine.

The county executive said vaccination is key for families being able to celebrate the holidays safely.

“Last year we saw a surge in cases over the holidays, but unlike last year, we have a proven way to keep our family gatherings safe. Please, get vaccination,” Bello said. “Many of us were vaccinated six months ago, and after six months, while still strongly protected immunity is less effective.

“Anyone who is six months past their final dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or two months past Johnson and Johnson should feel comfortable getting the booster,” Bello said. “Boosters in Monroe County are open to anyone who feels that they are at increased risk, our region is still in high risk.”

Monroe County’s numbers follow a regional resurgence of COVID-19 that officials are working to address as we head into the holiday season.

Both the Finger Lakes and Western New York have witnessed a recent surge in terms of new COVID-19 cases, and the regions have the two highest average positivity rates of all regions in New York state, according to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office.

“The last week has brought a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases in the county and parallels what we are seeing in surrounding counties and the northeast as a whole,” Dr. Mendoza said. “I attribute this to a number of factors. This is still delta, we have no evidence to indicate that a new variant is circulating locally and current data show that delta is 99.9% of new cases across the country.”

Watch the full press conference

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