Bello, Dr. Mendoza: PCR tests coming to Monroe County schools, $100 vaccine incentive


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza hosted a COVID-19 briefing Thursday to update residents on the county’s ongoing coronavirus response efforts, including a monetary vaccine incentive, increased access to PCR tests for schools, and more.

On Wednesday, Monroe County Department of Public Health officials reported 235 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the county’s seven-day average of daily new cases to 210. Officials also reported a 4.1% seven-day average positivity rate.

According to the New York State Department of Health, 238 people in the Finger Lakes region are hospitalized with the virus, including 60 who are in an ICU.

County officials report COVID-19 deaths weekly on Mondays. To date, 1,426 Monroe County residents have died from COVID-19.

As of the Monroe County COVID-19 dashboard’s last local vaccination update, 437,595 county residents are fully vaccinated and 487,753 have received at least one dose of the vaccine — 75.9% of the eligible county population.

“Holidays are coming up, we want to get together with our families — now is the time to get the vaccine,” Bello said. “We know the vaccines work. It’s safe, it’s free, it’s effective. The best way to travel, our see our families, is getting vaccinated.”

The county executive announced a $100 vaccination incentive that will run from October 23 through November 23. This incentive is based on a two-dose vaccine with a $50 incentive for each shot.

Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart (D-21) praised the incentive plan, saying in part:

“I’ve heard objections to “paying people to do the right thing.” But underserved communities have been failed in many ways by our government, which has largely not protected them from COVID. Offering an underserved population money won’t fix the damage that has been done, but it will improve and save lives.”

The health commissioner said the county is preparing for the next age group to receive approval for vaccination.

“The Pfizer vaccine will soon be available for kids 5-11,” Dr. Mendoza said. “Parents want their children to get the vaccine at the same place where they get their other vaccines; at their primary care physician or pediatrician. For this reason, Monroe County will order the vaccine and distribute it to the proper areas when it is fully approved.”

Dr. Mendoza said the process for vaccinating children is a different challenge than vaccinating adults.

“We are working hard, and know this is the best option for you,” Dr. Mendoza said. “We ask you to please be patient. The process of getting the vaccine for 5 years old is different than the rest.”

The health commissioner said the reported side effects of the vaccine for children are less severe than the side effects some adults experiecned.

“It does appear that younger kids won’t have as strong as effects as adults,” Dr. Mendoza said. “The common side effects will be fatigue, headaches, fever. Severe effects are very rare and don’t even come close to outweighing the importance of protecting our children and community against the virus.”

PCR tests are now available at the County’s Fleet Center on Paul Road. Bello said last week that these test results will be available in hours, not days, and are available by appointment only, by a drive-thru.

The health commissioner said the county is working on making these rapid PCR tests available for students in their schools, adding that the state requires certain measures for kids to return to the classroom after a potential infection or exposure, including being symptom-free for 24 hours and a negative PCR test.

“This make sense in our county, but practically it is keeping kids away from school,” Dr. Mendoza said. “It’s why we want to offer PCR tests in school. Schools will contact families to let them know they have them. This is a voluntary service for schools and parents should expect information to come within the next few weeks.”

Booster shots became available for eligible Monroe County residents earlier this month. Eligible residents are able to schedule a booster shot appointment online.

Having trouble scheduling a vaccine appointment? You can call the Monroe County COVID-19 hotline at 585-753-5555 for assistance, and if you need a ride to get to a vaccine clinic, Uber and Lyft are offering discounted or free rides to and from vaccination clinics:

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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