Bello, Dr. Mendoza: Monroe County to hold off on adopting CDC guidance for quarantine time

Coronavirus

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County will not be following guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for isolation time following exposure to the coronavirus.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello hosted a COVID-19 briefing Thursday afternoon with Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza, University of Rochester Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Apostolakos and Rochester Regional Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Mayo.

Bello began the conversation by sharing the numbers of positive cases in Monroe County. On Thursday, the county reported 1822 new coronavirus cases and 921 cases in the seven-day rolling average.

“1,822 cases versus 680 cases last week… we should expect more,” Bello said. “And I think even 2,000 cases a day is what’s likely in the next coming days.”

“Since day one of the pandemic, the number one goal has been to keep people alive, the bottom line is that to prevent death,” Bello said. “You have to ask yourself, what can you do to keep yourself alive? As of yesterday, the Finger Lakes region had 506 people hospitalized, 41.1% per 100,000. That is the highest in New York State and way above the state’s average.”

The county executive was clear when reinstating that receiving vaccination from the coronavirus is the best way to reduce the number of hospitalizations.

“A lot of us are going to catch the omicron variant, even if you’re vaxxed,” Bello said. But it is unlikely that you get will hospitalized, and even less likely that you will die if you are vaccinated.”

The nation has seen record numbers in single-day infections since the holiday season begun. Health officials have reported that hospitalization risk among omicron cases is lower, but its ability to spread is greater which could create shortages of staff and facilities within local and state healthcare systems.

Most recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials announced a new guidance in hopes to keep businesses open and help those who may have been infected return to work quicker.

Isolation period for Americans who catch the coronavirus is now halved from 10 to five days. That recommendation was made Monday.

Bello said that the state’s guidelines make the most sense and urged that the priority is to keep students in school, keep the economy of Monroe County open, all while managing the continuous spread.

“The New York State health department says that if you test positive, are asymptomatic and fully vaccinated and are an essential worker you can return to work after isolating for five days with a high quality mask,” Bello said. “We need to keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed again. Vax, boost, mask and test is the way we get through this surge without shutting down our lives again.”

Governor Kathy Hochul has not announced that the state will be complying with the new recommendation of the CDC. Monroe County will continue to apply the 10 day model when it comes to quarantine time (although for essential workers, New York State does have the recommendation of five days, something Bello said Monroe County would follow).

Additionally the state will be providing 330,000 state-supplied KN95 masks to frontline workers to bolster its response to the omicron surge. These masks will be allocated to local law enforcement, fire department and all staff at Rochester Regional Health, URMC, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and more.

Teachers at Monroe County School Districts and county workers will also be handed the newly-acquired masks. Bello did not set an expected date on when the distribution would take place.

Last week, Monroe County surpassed over 500,000 in residents who have received both vaccines.

“The vaccine is the best way to prepare your body against every strain of COVID-19,” Bello said. “We can protect our community into next year and help our healthcare system getting vaccinated and masking up.”

Prior to the holidays, Dr. Mendoza warned that the omicron variant has began to spread in Monroe County. Since the original detection on December 22, the county has announced record rises among positive cases of the coronavirus.

Monroe County health officials reported 1,573 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday. The county is now averaging 758 new cases per day over the past week with a seven-day rolling average positivity rate of 9.7% — a considerable increase from the 7.4% recorded just a week ago.

“Omicron is different… it’s a new and highly contagious variant, sharing the same level of contagiousness than measles, and much more contagious than the delta variant,” Dr. Mendoza said. “It does not appear to cause severe illness, which is reassuring, but we don’t know because case numbers typically precede other measure.”

While hospitalization risk is lower for omicron when compared to the delta variant, health officials urge that raw case numbers of infections can wear down the pace that healthcare systems respond.

“Even if a smaller percentage of those cases make it to the hospital, we may still see an impact on individual health and our hospital systems,” Mendoza said.

The health commissioner said that vaccination and masking can prove the most important form of defense as they has ever been. He went on to define the N95 and KN95 masks as the best when it comes to what masks protect against infection and said that a cloth mask layered over paper offers similar coverage.

According to Dr. Mendoza, omicron has incubation period of 2-4 days, making it much more difficult to trace. He said the vast majority of cases in vaccinated and boosted will not feel like much more than a common cold and clarified that isolation from others should be a priority when infected.

Strong Memorial Hospital announced a total of 134 active hospitalizations with the virus, 45 of which are in the ICU. A year ago, there were 174 hospitalizations and 46 patients in the ICU with COVID-19.

“We are not at last year’s peak levels but the percentage of patients who are critically ill is higher,” Dr. Apostolakos said. “It important to emphasize that the majority of our patients are unvaccinated.”

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the country is about to see a lot of omicron cases.

“Not all of those cases are going to be severe. In fact many are going to be asymptomatic,” she told The Associated Press on Monday. “We want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science.”

Watch the Full Press Conference here:


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