Bello, Dr. Mendoza: 1 million more at-home COVID tests coming to Monroe County, contact tracing changes

Coronavirus

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

New numbers

The local omicron surge continues as Monroe County has seen an unprecedented amount of new daily cases in recent weeks.

The county executive reported 2,488 new COVID-19 cases in Monroe County Thursday, bringing the county’s seven-day average of daily new cases to 2,483. One month ago, the county reported 248 new cases for the single day increase, and a 519 seven-day average of new cases.

The county executive said hospitalizations are also on the rise. He said the Finger Lakes region currently has 711 people hospitalized with COVID-19, including 118 in an ICU, compared to 502 and 125, respectively, one month ago.

“With the numbers rising, it is critical to take the steps necessary to keep ourselves and our community safe,” Bello said.

More at-home tests

The county executive said he believes the omicron surge will begin to decline in the coming weeks, but until then, he announced the county purchased an additional 1 million at-home COVID-19 tests to be distributed next month.

“I believe we are seeing the last wave of omicron,” Bello said. “It’s vital that these tests are used before big gatherings.”

The county executive said lessons were learned last month when the county purchased and distributed 750,000 at-home COVID-19 tests before the holidays.

“We are looking at the way it was given out last time and learning from that,” Bello said. “We are now able to expand the number of partners, and at this point next week, we should be able to give an announcement to where and when they’re going to be distributed. We want to isolate cases as soon as possible and at home tests allows us instant access.”

Contact tracing

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Monday that COVID-19 contact tracing is no longer required in New York. She said local health department resources are better used for testing and vaccination efforts, but said if localities wanted to continue contact tracing efforts they are free to do so.

“Most of you won’t be getting a phone call if you get COVID-19,” Dr. Mendoza said. “This is simply a symbol of a shift in our effort toward the end of the pandemic, but no, we are not there yet.”

The health commissioner said the county’s contact tracing efforts will continue to vulnerable populations, including nursing homes and congregate settings, but he said most of the community is capable of conducting their own contact tracing efforts.

“We will limit contract tracing and instead focus on the groups in our communities who cannot test themselves,” Dr. Mendoza said. “The guidelines have changed because COVID has changed.”

The county executive said he sympathized with frustration due to changing guidance.

“Like you, it is hard for me to keep up with the CDC and New York State Department of Health,” Bello said. “I have many of the same issues as you, as the guidelines seem to change on a weekly basis. The question that we hear most often is ‘I just tested positive, what do I do?'”

According to the county executive, if you test positive:

According to the county executive, if you are exposed:

The health commissioner expressed cautious optimism in the weeks ahead despite the current surge, but until then he said the same tactics that have worked will continue to work.

“The end of contact tracing is not a signal that the pandemic is about to end, but I am optimistic that better days are ahead,” Dr. Mendoza said. “But it is too early to see if omicron will loosen the grip on our community or if another variant coming our way. We know that masking, boosting, testing, and vaccination are things we can rely on.”

Masking concerns

Monroe County officials addressed concerns earlier this week over the quality of KN95 masks that were sent from New York state to be distributed locally.

County officials said the masks “may not provide KN95 level protection,” but residents were still encouraged to use them if they did not currently have access to other higher quality masks. , New York State Department of Health officials said: “Impacted counties have been contacted and asked to pull the masks in question and new masks will be shipped out for immediate replacement.

“The State of New York has been a great partner,” Bello said Thursday. “What happened here was a number of masks weren’t up to the standard. The state was very quick and will be sending us new masks. We will receive them in a few days and we will get them out there. In this instance it came from a vendor and they were unaware, but we will get the new masks out as soon as we receive them.”

Current trajectory

Monroe County was averaging more than 2,400 new COVID-19 cases per day over the past week as case rates have far exceeded those of any other prior point during the pandemic.

However, new data out of South Africa, where the omicron variant was first detected, shows a signal of a fast peak and a swift decline. Gov. Hochul said Tuesday that New York City may have already seen its omicron peak, and she added that Upstate New York trends were about two weeks behind New York City’s.

“There are no guarantees when looking into the future,” Dr. Mendoza said Thursday. “We are not similar to South Africa — they are not in winter — but they are seeing things turn around. We are also seeing things turn around in the United Kingdom and New York City, so I do think in 10-14 days things will really turn around in Monroe County, but you can never be sure.”

The health commissioner said the only constant during the pandemic is change, and that changing policies for quarantine, isolation, and contact tracing are just recent examples of the flexibility required to overcome COVID-19.

“What we are seeing today is that COVID created a variant in omicron,” Dr. Mendoza said. “If we see another variant than we have to talk about how we change contact tracing again, but I think me and you are seeing the end of the pandemic, so we need to take the steps to move forward.”

Boosters for kids

Last week the CDC endorsed booster shots for everyone 12 and older — boosters were already available to those 16 and up. Additionally, new state guidance released Monday says that school students and staff, must have their booster shot if they are eligible, or they cannot participate in after school activities or extracurriculars if they are exposed to or have tested positive for COVID-19.

“From the beginning, Monroe County was very forward thinking about including after school activities when it came to test to stay,” Bello said. “We have been a proponent of local support, and we ran into a similar situation a few months ago with the McQuaid football team. We do need some clarify from the state on activities that could potentially cross county lines.”

“I can see where the confusion is coming from,” Dr. Mendoza said. “I think, for now, it makes sense. We have to put classroom first, but we need to have a standard that is uniform and we want to have consistency.”

Testing site under investigation

The Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York is looking into a new COVID-19 testing site that has opened up in the area.

The local Center for COVID Control is located on Mount Hope Avenue in Rochester and, according to its website, is one of more than 300 locations across the country. The site provides free same-day rapid tests along with PCRs.

However, after negative reviews online with some customers saying they aren’t receiving their test results, the BBB decided to investigate. That investigation was initiated by the BBB in Chicago and Wisconsin.

They’re currently collecting information from the public including any complaints, scam reports or customer experiences from people who visited this location. If you have anything you’d like to report, you can do so here.

“We raised this to the attention of the state health department and hopefully they can find that these tests are used correctly, and if not, they should have their operation seized,” Dr. Mendoza said Thursday.

Isolation, quarantine change

Monroe County officially adopted the latest COVID-19 quarantine and isolation guidance from the New York State Department of Health Wednesday.

The guidance resembles recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but differs in a number of ways.

Monroe County Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Michael Mendoza clarified the local guidance in a tweet Thursday. It breaks down as follows:

If you are vaccinated and boosted, or vaccinated but not eligible for a booster, and test positive for COVID-19:

  • Isolate for 5 days.
    • If you are symptomatic, the 5-day isolation period begins the day you began showing symptoms.
    • If you are not symptomatic, the 5-day isolation period begins the day you tested positive.
  • After 5 days:
    • If your symptoms have resolved, isolation ends. Wear a well-fitting mask when you are around people for a further 5 days.
    • If you are still symptomatic, isolate another 5 days.

If you are vaccinated and boosted, or vaccinated but not eligible for a booster, and exposed to someone with COVID-19:

  • You do not need to quarantine. You should wear a well-fitting mask while around other people for 10 days, beginning from the date of your last exposure.
  • If you begin showing symptoms of COVID-19, quarantine immediately and get tested as soon as possible.
    • If your test is negative, quarantine ends.
    • If you do not get tested, follow the 5-day isolation guidance above.

If you are unvaccinated, or vaccinated and eligible for a booster, but not boosted, and test positive for COVID-19:

  • Isolate for 5 days.
    • If you are symptomatic, the 5-day isolation period begins the day you began showing symptoms.
    • If you are not symptomatic, the 5-day isolation period begins the day you tested positive.
  • If you begin showing symptoms of COVID-19, quarantine immediately and get tested as soon as possible.
    • If your test is negative, quarantine ends.
    • If you do not get tested, follow the 5-day isolation guidance above.

If you are unvaccinated, or vaccinated and eligible for a booster, but not boosted, and exposed to someone with COVID-19:

  • Quarantine for 5 days, beginning from the date of your last exposure. Wear a well-fitting mask when around people for another 5 days.

Watch the full Press Conference here:

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

Rochester Rundown
What's Good with Dan Gross
Songs From Studio B
Download Our App

Don't Miss