Rochester hospital leaders: Unvaccinated people driving COVID-19 hospitalizations

Coronavirus

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Chief Medical Officers from the two major hospital systems in the Rochester region held a briefing Wednesday to discuss declining COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Finger Lakes region.

University of Rochester Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Apostolakos and Rochester Regional Health Chief Medical Officer D. Robert Mayo joined local media for the virtual briefing.

The county is now averaging 67 new cases per day over the past week. Monroe County now has a seven-day rolling average positivity rate of 1.9%.

According to the New York State Department of Health, the latest data shows 157 people in the Finger Lakes region were hospitalized with the virus, including 41 in the ICU.

Both health leaders agree that while COVID-19 numbers are improving locally, there is still a stress on the health care systems. They also both agree that the vast majority of patients with COVID at the hospitals are people who are not vaccinated.

“We are still seeing anywhere from two-to-five patients admitted per day with COVID, and the vast majority of them are unvaccinated persons,” Dr. Apostolakos said. “This has led to us continuing to have about 70 patients in the hospital that we’re admitted with COVID. At our peak we had about 300 patients, 400 as a system and right now, as a system, we have about 100 patients and 70 at Strong. And that still represents about 10% of our inpatient beds so with non-COVID patients returning with this 10% it has kept the hospital quite full.”

“Presently our system census is about 55 inpatients with COVID,” Dr. Mayo said. “There are still a number of them in the ICU on ventilators, quite ill. It’s important that no one forget that COVID is still a very serious illness and we’re grateful that the total numbers are down compared to the peak. The number in Rochester Regional Health is down to almost 10 to 15% of what the peak was, but those who are there are still very stick and it really is unvaccinated folks. We are aware of some breakthrough infections of people who were vaccinated and later tested positive, but those patients are almost invariably asymptomatic or very, very mild symptoms and the positivity is discovered through routine testing.”

The doctors both said although the area is in a much better place combatting COVID-19, the hospitals are still seeing a larger number of patients than they were before the pandemic. Officials said the best way to help, is to get vaccinated.

“The vaccine is almost 100% effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death. So we encourage everyone age 12 and older who hasn’t been vaccinated, get vaccinated as soon as possible,” Apostolakos said.

The doctors both added that the more people that are vaccinated, the more the hospital rooms will start to look like normal, pre-pandemic days for both the hospital staff, the patients and their families.

“If we can reduce the number of patients admitted with COVID-19 — and we can do that with vaccinations — it will open up more space for patients in the Emergency Department to get admitted to the hospital and more space for patients in the emergency vehicles to get into the hospital,” Apostolakos said.

Apostolakos said the majority of cases they are seeing now are variant cases and it doesn’t seem to be any more or less severe than the original strain of COVID-19.

“The concern about variants will remain and with the Department of Health, we’ll be testing for that as specimens are sent out. Thus far the vaccinations are effective against the variants so that’s an important point that the public should know,” Dr. Mayo said.

Watch the full press briefing

News 8 WROC will provide updates on this developing story.

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