Bello, Dr. Mendoza: Monroe County at a ‘turning point’ against COVID-19


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza updated residents on the pandemic and its impact locally during a coronavirus briefing Thursday.

According to the county executive, the delta variant surge is still underway, with rising case numbers reported week over week.

“Last week we reported 169 new COVID-19 cases in Monroe County with a seven-day average of 142,” Bello said. “Today we are reported 213 new cases and a seven-day average of 193.”

The health commissioner said context is important when looking at the data.

“We’ve been focusing on these cases, but we are at a turning point in how we gauge these numbers,” Dr. Mendoza said. “Our total levels are increasing, but I want to offer that we are doing an increased number of test. At some level, it [rising numbers] wasn’t surprising, but predictable.”

Additionally, the health commissioner said the county’s average positivity rate has seen a slight decline recently, which was 4% as of Wednesday afternoon.

County officials report COVID-19 deaths weekly on Mondays. To date, 1,379 Monroe County residents have died from COVID-19, according to the most recent update on September 13.

According to the New York State Department of Health, 192 people in the Finger Lakes region were hospitalized with the virus, and 64 are in the ICU — concerning numbers to the health commissioner.

“The hospitalization and ICU numbers are growing,” Dr. Mendoza said. “This number represents people who are suffering.”

Dr. Mendoza said now is a good time to consider the flu shot to help prevent hospitals from potentially becoming overwhelmed.

“The flu shot is available now and you can get it at the same time as you get your COVID shot,” Dr. Mendoza said.

The health commissioner said most of he county’s new cases are emanating from travel, and social gatherings, particularly with sports teams.

“I want to encourage everyone to stay vigilant,” Dr. Mendoza said.

Additionally, the health commissioner said there has been a rise in new cases for people aged 5 to 18.

“When you look at the total proportion of cases from 5-18, it has increased by 6%,” Dr. Mendoza said. “To that end, I want to offer a recommendation: I do want to encourage parents to check in on their children to make sure they’re well. Please pay special attention to their symptoms, and remind students that if you’re have pre or post game activities to wear a mask. I want to applaud the children for wearing their masks.”

The county executive said the state’s vaccine mandate for health care workers is on hold for now as a federal judge ruled against it in a religious exemption case this week. Gov. Kathy Hochul said during Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing that the state will appeal that ruling.

“There is still too we don’t know [about the mandate],” Bello said.

The county executive said there is a concern that a shortage of health care workers could be the result of unvaccinated workers who won’t return to work if and when a vaccine mandate is instituted and upheld.

As of the Monroe County COVID-19 dashboard’s last local vaccination update, 456,448 county residents are fully vaccinated and 488,436 have received at least one dose of the vaccine — 65.8% of the county population.

“Vaccination remains the best and most effective tool we have to combat COVID-19,” Bello said.

“This debate has morphed into making people get the vaccine, and asking ‘why are we getting the vaccine,'” Dr. Mendoza said. “It has been administered to billions, but I think we can take a step back and get back to the roots of doing what we can to keep our patients safe.”

The county executive said a mobile vaccine unit deployed last week to bring shots to people who are unable to travel to a clinic. To find a vaccine clinic near you, visit this website.

Regarding the new vaccine requirement for fans 12 and older at Buffalo Bills and Sabres games, the county executive said he’s been in discussion with the Blue Cross Arena owners — who also own the Bills and Sabres — and said a decision could be announced soon.

“We’ve had conversations with the Pegulas and we will have a decision [on mandates in Pegula-owned stadiums] in the next couple of days,” Bello said.

Watch the full press briefing

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

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