ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Executive Adam Bello joined Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza for their weekly coronavirus briefing Thursday, with a word of caution for the community.
“We are entering another surge of the pandemic here in Monroe County, and we are reporting 302 new cases today,” Dr. Mendoza said. “What’s especially concerning about this is it’s occurring in warmer weather. People are gathering outdoors and more people are vaccinated. All of this taken together leaves me to conclude the impact of the variants are upon us.”
“It’s pretty clear that we are seeing a surge in new cases in younger age groups in our community, most of whom became eligible to schedule vaccine appointments this week,” Bello said. “Most of our new cases are coming from high school students, college students, and young professionals.”
The 302 new cases reported Thursday is the highest single-day increase since January 28 (318). Additionally, Monroe County’s seven-day rolling average for new cases per day is now 228, up from 144 two weeks ago.
“This variant [B.1.1.7] is more contagious, and in my view that is why we’re seeing more cases,” Dr. Mendoza said. “What we’re realizing is this surge is different than previous surges because the virus is different, but it’s also different because we have the vaccine for this surge.”
The county officials say the recent surge of new cases is mostly coming from younger people. New Yorkers 16 and older became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine this week, and older residents who have been vaccinated and immunized are helping keep new case rates down for older demographics.
“We have two great tools to fight the coronavirus in our community,” Bello said. “One is the vaccine, and the other is the mask. We need to continue to do our best to vaccinate as many people as we can, and continue to utilize the mitigation measures we’ve used in the past 14 months — particularly by wearing a mask in public.
The health commissioner said there is currently an abundance of vaccine, but some folks have a preference to one vaccine or the other and that is slowing the vaccination process down.
“The irony is that we have an abundance of vaccine,” Dr. Mendoza. “I understand the demand of Johnson and Johnson is higher because it’s one shot and convenient, but the projection supply for that vaccine doesn’t look great. If you want to wait for Johnson and Johnson vaccine, you will not be immune in time for Memorial Day. I want to encourage everyone that this vaccine is our path out of the pandemic. Young people, your best option is the Dome Arena.”
The health commissioner said the current rise in variant cases is coming from younger unvaccinated people and he urged all eligible residents to schedule their vaccine appointments as soon as possible to help Monroe County reach herd immunity quicker.
According to the Monroe County COVID-19 dashboard, 190,406 county residents are fully vaccinated and 289,010 residents have received at least one dose — 38.9% of the county population.
The county executive said he received the first dose of the vaccine Saturday at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center, and he said there were many appointments still available at the site as well as other county-run sites throughout the area.
The county executive reminded residents to cancel appointments if they make a second one so other appointments open back up for others.
The county officials said they would continue to monitor the metrics each day as determinations are made on schools potentially returning to more in-person instruction, and youth sports. This week the Monroe County Department of Public Health suspended youth hockey activities after a COVID-19 outbreak stemming from a local tournament.
“Nobody wants to close down any sports, and we follow the data closely,” Dr. Mendoza said. “What happens with other sports is really in our hands. If we can keep things at bay on the sidelines or at home, then I think we want to keep everything as open as we possibly can.”
Watch the full briefing:
This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will provide updates as they become available.