Why are COVID cases so high across the Finger Lakes region? Local experts weigh in

Coronavirus

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As we head into the holiday season, Monroe County continues to see COVID cases spike. 

Over the past three days, more than 1,000 positive cases have been reported across the county and we currently have a 7-day positive rate around 6%. Meanwhile, the Finger Lakes region has the highest 7-day positivity rate of all regions across New York, currently at 6.5%. 

But, New Yorkers are continuing to get vaccinated against the virus, so why are we seeing cases go up?

Albert Blankley, the Chief Operating Officer at Common Ground Health, said there are a lot of factors that could be playing a role in the rising cases. One being, vaccination rates. Another, how people are living their day-to-day lives.

“Where you see fewer precautions being taken, like masking, social distancing, those sorts of things, in localities, you tend to see those increases in cases. A lot of times it really does come down to local and even, you know, sub-local factors where you wind up with a cluster because of a particular gathering,” Blankley said. 

Blankley added as we start to see cooler weather, transmission could also rise as more people gather inside. 

“We know that for any sort of respiratory disease, as we get into the colder months and spend more time together indoors, you’re more likely to wind up catching something. So to the extent that folks can, we really do want to encourage those same practices… social distancing, masking as people do move inside, especially with the holidays coming up,” Blankley said. 

Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said he believes other areas outside the Finger Lakes region will start to see cases rise as well, but that we could be seeing higher numbers right now because we were quick to vaccinate a lot of people. 

“We are now starting to see the impact of some of the vaccine effectiveness waining for regular infection. We are seeing that it is remaining very effective to preventing hospitalizations and worse outcomes, but for the routine, milder, and asymptomatic infections, we’re seeing that effectiveness start to decline a little bit… so it doesn’t take much to see the numbers increasing like we have,” Mendoza said. 

Because of rising cases, more testing sites are opening their doors. The Monroe County Fleet Center on Paul Road is open for testing specifically for K-12 students, and you can register for an appointment online. Other testing sites for the general public include:

Mon & Tue 9-11:45am, 1-3:45pm
County Fleet Center, Building 10 – 145 Paul Rd., Rochester NY 14624
Preregistration is suggested
Click Here to Preregister

Thursdays 5-8pm
Irondequoit – Public Works Building – 2629 East Ridge Rd, Rochester, NY 14622
Preregistration is suggested
Click Here to Preregister

Fridays 11am-2pm
Greater Harvest Church – 
121 Driving Park Ave, Rochester, NY 14613
Preregistration is suggested
Click Here to Preregister

Saturdays 11am-2pm
Memorial AME Zion – 549 Clarissa St, Rochester, NY 14608
Preregistration is suggested
Click Here to Preregister

Sundays 1-4pm
Jefferson High School – 1 Edgerton Park, Rochester, NY 14608
Preregistration is suggested
Click Here to Preregister

“When COVID first started, a lot of people wasn’t going to get tested. They were staying home, they was waiting too late, you know, to even come be seen. So I feel like something that’s free to the community like this, can help bring our numbers down faster,” said Ericka Glover, the manager at the testing center. 

Glover said their testing site is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but she is prepared to extend the hours until 7 p.m. if cases continue to rise. The testing does not require insurance.

“Basically what we do here is rapid testing and we also offer sending testing out to the lab, which is 96 hours turn around. You get the results straight to your email, fast, easy. You test yourself and we test two-years-old and up, but you do have to bring ID for the little kids and also for yourself,” Glover said. 

Glover said she has already seen more people coming in to get tested ahead of the holidays. She said even if you’re vaccinated, it’s better to be safe than sorry if you plan on seeing loved ones. 

“You could be a symptomatic and nor even know it, you know? And to be around people and not know you have that, you could be putting anybody at risk,” Glover said. 

However, health experts remind people that the best thing they can do to control the spread of the virus and keep others safe is to get vaccinated.

“Even if you have been vaccinated and you’re eligible for a booster, I really want to encourage folks to do that too. Because in those instances, what we’re seeing is that you’re not only protecting yourself with that booster, but if you’re going to be getting together with family in some form or fashion over the next two months, you’re adding additional protection to everybody you’re getting together with,” Blankley said. 

Blankley added it’s important people discuss their comfortability levels with their friends and family before gathering. He said make sure to consider the entire group’s level of risk.

“What I’m encouraging folks to do is to engage in conversations with the people that that you want to get together with and to listen to what folks are telling them about where they want to be and how they want to interact. And that could mean, you know, any number of things for different families, depending on what those individual circumstances are,” he said. 

If you’re looking to get vaccinated, there a number of Monroe County clinics currently taking place. Some locations are offering $100 incentives for those looking to get the shot. Click here for more information.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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