Bello, Dr. Mendoza: Monroe County surpasses 500K with at least one vaccine dose


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza hosted a COVID-19 briefing Friday to update residents on the county’s ongoing pandemic response efforts.

The county executive said there were 241 new COVID-19 cases reported Friday, bringing the county’s seven-day average to 218 new cases per day, which keeps Monroe County in the classification of a “high transmission area,” according to the CDC. The new cases and daily average Friday were up from last week’s 215 and 202, respectively.

The health commissioner said, despite the rising case rates, the seven-day average positivity rate has been holding steady, which has been around 4% since the beginning of August. He attributed the rise in cases to more people gathering indoors and an increase in testing.

“I see that we’re testing more and finding more,” Dr. Mendoza said. “We have consistently lagged behind the rest of the country, but things look like they are plateauing. We will still keep our foot on the gas and I ask the public to do the same.”

The health commissioner said the delta variant continues to be the most prevalent coronavirus strain locally.

“Most of, if not all of the new cases are the delta variant,” Dr. Mendoza said. “It is the most predominant variant, so there’s no reason to keep track of this.”

Bello also said that Monroe County surpassed 500,000 residents with at least one vaccine dose.

“We have hit a major milestone with more than 80% of residents 18 and older with at least one vaccine dose, but our fight is still not over,” Bello said.

The county executive reported 504,325 residents with at least one vaccine dose and 470,508 who are fully vaccinated.

Even with the aforementioned vaccine milestone reached, the health commissioner says it’s important to remain vigilant in the fight against COVID-19 in the months ahead.

“We are not out of the woods yet, especially with more indoor time coming,” Dr. Mendoza said. “We cannot allow ourselves to get complacent.”

The county executive said that beginning next week there will be new vaccination sites at 3349 Monroe Avenue in Pittsford Plaza and the former Bed, bath, and Beyond store at the Mall at Greece Ridge. Bello added that boosters and initial vaccine options will be available at both sites.

“Our primary focus is increasing the rate to the low vaccine communities in Rochester,” Bello said. “It’s safe, it’s free and it works. We continue to hire staff to handle vaccination sites.

The county executive announced that pediatric PCR tests, required for kids’ ability to return to the classroom from quarantine, will be available at the County’s Fleet Center on Paul Road. Bello added that these test results will be available in hours, not days, and are available by appointment only, by a drive-thru.

“These tests are availably for children ages 4 to 19 who are symptom free and must be enrolled in a K-12 school,” Bello said.

The county executive said this new testing option will reduce the current burden of the amount of PCR tests needed.

“The need to increase PCR testing, especially rapid testing, will help us get Monroe County students back to school,” Bello said.

“The goal is to get kids back in school as quick as possible, but if your child is sick, do not be afraid to call on local health physicians,” Dr. Mendoza said.

According to the New York State Department of Health, there are 220 COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Finger Lakes region, including 55 patients with the virus in an ICU. To date, 1,412 Monroe County residents have died from COVID-19, according to the county health department.

With increasing rates of COVID-19 hospitalization rates, systems like Rochester Regional Health are getting creative for ways to expand care for patients, like erecting an outdoor structure to be able to expand emergency room care at Rochester General Hospital. The county executive said he’s been in contact with the Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office to ensure that there are enough health care staff to support local patients.

The county leaders say they understand the fatigue of dealing with the pandemic, but expressed optimism going forward.

“We’re not new to looking at concerning numbers,” Dr. Mendoza said. “Even if we’re tired of the pandemic, the pandemic is not tired of us. Will it let go? I do think so. This is the next surge, the 4-11-year-old group that still needs to be vaccinated. We have a job to do here in the health department and we’ll keep doing it until this thing is over.”

“My outlook on things is positive,” Bello said. “We’ve lagged behind the country, and I’m optimistic about this. We’re having a lot of conversations about how do we rebuild the economy, rebuild Monroe County. I’m optimistic about the future, but we’re not going to stop doing this. The end game is getting as many people vaccinated. COVID is not going to go away one day, but it will turn manageable one day. If we’re vaccinated, we don’t have the same level of concern about the holidays or anything else.”

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:

Watch the full briefing

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

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