COVID-19 town hall with County Executive Bello, Dr. Mendoza, Mayor Warren and Rep. Morelle

Coronavirus

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, and Rep. Joe Morelle answered your questions during a COVID-19 town hall Wednesday.

These local leaders said they wanted to answer as many questions as possible from folks in our community. We took your questions about the pandemic straight to the leaders, officials and experts.

Click the video player above to see the full COVID-19 town hall special.

COVID-19 questions from our community

Sally  — If the theory is that there will be a  test for antibodies and the people with antibodies will be allowed to return to work and re-enter society – what happens to those of us who have been successfully social distancing and don’t have antibodies?  Will we be isolating until there is a vaccine in 12 to 18 months?  

Dr. Gerry Gacioch — Hi Congressman Morelle, I am the chief of cardiology at RGH. Not a question but a plea: Hospitals across America and right here in the Rochester area have seen an alarming decrease in citizens coming to hospitals with HEART ATTACKS and STROKES. We are very concerned that people are not getting the critical early treatments they need that can help save hearts, brains and lives. PLEASE emphasize that hospitals are extremely safe (we are not going to give you COVID!) and emergency care is readily available. Please do not delay your care if you have CHEST PAIN, Acute SHORTNESS OF BREATH, PASSING OUT or STROKE SIGNS.  Early treatments make a huge difference.

Roger Moynes — Dr. Mendoza, how are deaths are being count, a lot on Social media  That if a person dies during this time it’s being counted as COVID 19, ex: person dies of a heart attack, but then was test or found out he had the virus it’s counted at a virus death but it was the heart attack that killed the person.

Carolyn Dee — Dr. Mendoza, what percentage of people in Monroe County who have passed away due to COVID- 19 had pre-existing health conditions? Is there an age break down? Anyone with no health issues or young? Thank you.

Miluska Mejia Trebejo — I’m a resident in the Rochester Regional Health system, I am highly concerned about the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for us healthcare workers who are in the frontlines of taking care of COVID-19 patients. We’re currently being asked to reuse a mask for 1 week, a mask that was created to be a one-time disposable supply. My question to you is what is your plan of action to supply us with PPE that can be readily available and prevent us from using PPE that likely looses its protective capacity when being reused. 

Brendan Carey — A lot of boaters are confused as to why boat launches are closed. There aren’t gatherings at launches and before this pandemic there was well more than six feet between people. When will we reopen them? So we can at least enjoy fishing on the lake with the kids.

Cindy Edington — My daughter is pregnant and my question related to COVID 19 is this — has there been any thoughts about using some of the surgery centers outside of the hospitals as birthing centers so that we can mitigate risk to COVID 19 exposure to both mother and child?

DJ Wells — Having lost a parent to this horrific virus and knowing the severity of it, it concerns me to hear (and read in a Forbes article) that New York state is looking to resume business on April 29th. Hearing an interview with Dr. Mendoza where he speculated that the apex in our area wouldn’t happen until approximately that time. Wouldn’t opening ourselves for business on an aggressive time frame put lives at risk?  How does the reopening of businesses affect the reopening of schools?  What is the criteria for making these decision?  Are they state-wide decisions, or regional?

Debra Metzger — My question is for Dr. Mendoza: The Governor always goes over where the state of New York (mainly downstate) is on the curve for cases, hospitalizations, etc. Where is our region on its own curve? Are we at the apex and/or plateau like they are?

Alan Rector — For Dr. Mendoza: I heard that taking Ibuprofen when you have COVID-19 makes it worse and that you should only take Tylenol.  Is this true?

Marissa Barashi — To County Executive Bello: I have been closely following yours and Governor Cuomo’s press releases and as best I can tell, the question of summer camps has not come up as one of the gears that the Governor refers to- should we assume if schools reopen that camps will too? As a working mother, I’m obviously really concerned about the possibility of needing to go back to work with zero affordable childcare. Has this been a consideration in any of the discussions with the Governor? If not, can you please address this with him?

Jody Siegle — We take daily walks in the small quiet neighborhood where we live.  The population density is low.  People cross the street to maintain social distancing so when we encounter a neighbor we are NEVER closer than 20 feet from them.   Do we really need to wear masks when walking outside and not near other people in this situation?  We always wear masks when we go anywhere else. 

Tanyka N Blanding — I would like to know as healthcare workers putting our job on the lines what are or when are you going to give incentives to can who work in this field hazard pay anything

Christy Brick — In regards to school closures. At this point the date goes to 4/30.  Whenever Cuomo is asked it gets twisted to talk only about NYC region.  When will we get answers?  Is it going to be a 1 day decision and the teachers, students, parents have no time to prepare?  

Jeannette Lodice — Why are the ages of those who have died in Monroe County no longer published on the county dashboard and why is the death rate percentage higher than in most counties in NYS — consistently over 6%?

Megan Lochner — Can you tell me how Monroe County gets their count for COVID deaths and if it includes nursing home deaths?

Adrian Clements — I would like to know what steps are correctional facilities taking to keep the inmates safe.

Kelley Gahagan — What will be done to mitigate the possible exposure of those allowed to attend the vigil on Easter Sunday. Do we need to test those that attended for the virus to see if there is a potential for large outbreak and potential larger unchecked spread of the virus in that neighborhood?

Jodi Tunison — If my store has been labeled non-essential by the state, why are smoke shops and CBD stores all over Monroe County still able to be open and conduct business as usual? In terms of retailers are smoke shops and CBD stores essential?

Ray Roth — How is testing of antiviral drugs progressing, specifically OYA-1?

Lisa Yankevich — We are seeing NYC flattening ,or at the top of curve now, for COVID-19 virus. Does it look like Rochester has started to flatten or do we possibly still have weeks ahead of many more cases?

Mary Khazak Grant — A question for Dr. Mendoza: If the social isolation works and test positives end in Monroe County, what happens to the virus then? Does it spore and go to sleep somewhere? How is it possible that it disappears for good overall?

Mary Faro — For Rep. Morelle: Has New York State waived the work search requirements for receiving unemployment benefits? Many of us have only been temporarily furloughed, so it wouldn’t make sense to have to look for a new job.

Heather Lynne — Can you get the virus multiple times?

Joe Forest — A majority of college students aged 19-24 will not be eligible for the $1,200 federal stimulus check. With a majority of these people working in sectors temporarily shut down due to the virus, what would you say to those who are currently out of work and not receiving pay? How are these people supposed to pay bills?

Patricia — Where can seniors get face masks without paying very marked up prices for them on Amazon? Walgreens are sold out.

Cathy DeConick — Why does Monroe County have hundreds more confirmed cases of coronavirus than surrounding counties?

Doug Deeley — I see that all news conferences held in Rochester and at the state level are holding true to the 6 feet separation requests. Why isn’t the federal government doing the same thing? For example when the president was signing the $2.2 trillion package there were numerous people right next to each other in the same room. Still another example was today when I was watching what appeared to be the vice president visiting a Walmart warehouse. He was very close to all the people he was visiting. Why are the president and vice president so close in the same room together? Shouldn’t they be separated in case one gets sick and the other needs to take charge?

Quiana Velez — This is to all of the leaders attending this town hall. I would like to know why there has not been an enforced lockdown of Monroe County? There are businesses like fast food, bars and restaurants which are open for delivery, drive through and takeout — that doesn’t make sense to me. As all these workers are in close proximity and there is always a possibility of people being careless or forgetful in regards to working with food. Why has there not been and enforced lockdown in general as I see many people still out and about thinking life is normal? Also why have there been no enforced rules on all business in Monroe County to protect their workers?

Anthony M: When a person has passed away from the virus, why isn’t the public being told the person had an underlying health condition and age? The first person that passed away we were told this information, but since then nothing.

Dustin Winters — When will Monroe County get antibody testing?

Suzy Rich — I’m trying to get perspective, what would be an average daily number of deaths in Monroe County without this coronavirus?

Marjorie Gascon— As seniors, we are not supposed to be going into public places, but the grocery pick up service provided by Wegmans and Tops is not working, so we are forced to go into the grocery stores. We can’t get hand sanitizer or masks, household sanitizing products are not available either. If we are to stay out of the hospital, how are we to protect ourselves?

Barbara Burns — Are patients from the downstate area currently being transferred, or are plans in place to transfer patients to Rochester-area hospitals? Are PPE and equipment, notably ventilators, from our area being transferred downstate?

Betty Cordero — I do not have a question, but rather a statement. On behalf of the people of Monroe County, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation for all that you have done to keep our community informed. I appreciate your calmness and dedication in this uncertain time. Lastly as a county employee, I appreciate you taking time out of a packed day to spend a moment by sending encouraging emails to your staff.

Patrick Armstrong — April 1 marked the start of a new month with various bills being due such as rent, loan and credit card payments. The U.S. jobless claims report that will be released later today is expected to exceed last week’s total of almost 3.3 million claims [Editor’s note: That report was released today, and the new jobless report is a record 6.6 million Americans]. Some economists are even predicting in the future we may reach a 30% unemployment rate, which would be higher than the almost 25% reached in the Great Depression. Rep. Morelle, would you support a new round of COVID-19 relief that would halt rent and all debt payments?

Debra Metzger — My question is for Dr. Mendoza: Where are we with COVID-19 testing? Who’s getting the tests? Do we have the necessary test materials to get a true sense of how many people in our community have it? What’s the turnaround time to get results from the tests that are being conducted?

Darlene — Will the children be back to school soon? What about the high school seniors, how are they going to finish their senior year, plus have to do all the tests required for them to go to college? Why don’t these stores limit items? I saw a man get around 50 spray air fresheners — that’s not right. When will be able to live like normal?

Karen Giacalone — Can the virus be transmitted through an open cut? My hands are cracked and there are some open spots from hand washing, can the virus enter the bloodstream this way?

Zita — Is there a consideration to disinfect the state, counties, cities, towns and villages of New York, as has been undertaken in China and Italy?

Kerry Webster — For early intervention and special needs children, will they be able to “make up” missed therapy sessions once school is back in session and are therapists allowed to come into our homes? I do understand that tela-therapy is available, but it is a struggle to two parents that are essential personnel.

Debbie Alimentato — Why isn’t the health department reporting the ages of people who have died in Monroe County? Dr. Mendoza has said the average age of the people who died was 76 years of age. The chart that reports influenza A and B reports the ages and sex of the people who died. The only report of the age and sex was the first person who died of COVID-19.

Barbara Burns — Why is it that the “privacy” of deceased residents, or that of those who are infected  with COVID 19, trumps the well-being of the entire population of Monroe County? Where is the concern for the greater good? Divulging the sex and age of those who test positive, while interesting, is not vital information, nor is the wide range of the number of infected individuals by zip code. While the names of those infected or deceased individuals is clearly protected, other information, such as town of residence, where the individual worked and shopped, etc., is not.
We are told the next month will be brutal. Why are you refusing to provide the kind of information we need to help keep us safe?

Terry Burdge — In the early stages of COVID-19, it was discovered that a cancer drug from the 1960s was fatal to the COVID-19 virus and safe for humans. Why is this drug not being used to save lives? Also, how many lives could have been saved had the government not dragged their feet?

Janet Surridge — I’ve heard through social media that there was a building in Japan that had a sewer gas leak, and the gas carried the virus and it contaminated the whole building and everyone got sick. Have you heard of this? If this is true, how do we protect ourselves?

Keith Farr — For Rep. Morelle: In a time where politicians need to do the right thing for people and put politics aside, do you think it was reasonable of Nancy Pelosi to put certain agenda items in the first proposal of the stimulus package? Do you think that was something you would have supported? If so, why?

Roger Moynes: This is for Rep. Morelle: Why was so much money put into the virus bill that had nothing to do with the virus?

Carol — For Dr. Mendoza: Could you please stress to the public that it is OK to go outdoors as long as your practice social distancing? Many people seem to think they must stay in their house.

Jeff Falco — This is for County Executive Bello: With spring here, the landscaping industry is wanting to start up. Recent memos from the governor’s office say landscape maintenance, such as mowing, pruning, fertilization, is deemed essential. In the same memo it says “placement” of shrubs, trees, flowers, and sod are also essential. My question, is placement to be considered installation? We are aware that Erie County has said installation is not essential and companies providing this service will be cited and fine.

Dawn Bates — Why aren’t veterinary services such as pet vaccinations against rabies and other diseases deemed as essential services in New York state, especially now that the weather is getting nice and pets are at greater risk? But liquor stores are deemed an essential service? This doesn’t make sense. Meanwhile, states like Maryland and Pennsylvania have deemed veterinary services as essential.  

Elizabeth Rice — I am over 65 and have had the pneumonia vaccines. To what, if any extent does that vaccine protect one from developing pneumonia if stricken with COVID-19?

Christine Vazquez — If this continues through summer, will mosquitoes carry it and infect more people?

Amrita Diol — How many medical personnel and/or first responders have tested positive? Do all medical staff have necessary protective gear available? Are any of the potential treatment drugs in testing in Monroe County? Is there a schedule when testing will be available for the public? Is there a way to use smartphone GPS to track those with the virus in ways that could be beneficial for all parties?

Jan Saxton — Thanks for taking my questions. My first one is about social distancing and what the county is going to do about all the people that are not complying, like groups at parks, playgrounds, parties, grocery shopping , visiting, etc. This is very frustrating that the seriousness is not getting across to people and I think we have given enough time and energy to get them to understand. My second question is if New York is going to make face mask wearing mandatory while in public.

Cecilia Chang — Why does Monroe County have so many COVID-19 cases?

Seth Stinehour — Does Adam Bello think that when government enforces closure of businesses base on their decision, should those government officials forego their salary since they are asking constituents to do the same?

Linda Stanzel — As the COVID-19 cases peak and start going down, can the cases start peaking again as people get more confident and start going out of their houses again and traveling? How does it go away completely?

Janice Toland — I am wondering what happens to the virus when a person passes away? Does it continue to live, and if so, for how long?

Michael Soradler — For Rep. Morelle: The coronavirus is first and foremost a medical crisis. That being the case, why is so much money going to business now when there has been no money given to those who are being treated for the virus who have no health insurance or are under insured. We need to take care of those people first. Business should not get a dime until we take care of our own!

Jenn LaClair — I was hoping someone could address medication shortages for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients caused by the use of Plaquenil and other antimalarial medications for COVID19 and how or even if executive Bello can help to make sure people in our community get these vital medications?

Bob Beyer — For Dr. Mendoza: What happens to the coronavirus after a victim dies from the disease? Does the virus eventually die also or does it find another host? I read that the coronavirus can still be active on other surfaces for up to three days. Thank you.

Sam Udofa — We understand that testing is restrictive due to the limited supply. If testing is restrictive, how can the reported volume of infection be valid?

Patricia Molina — First I’d like to say what a great job Dr. Mendoza, Mr. Bello and Mr .Morelle are doing in this crisis to keep us informed. My questions are for Dr. Mendoza. I understand that Hydroxychloroquine in combination with a Z-Pack has been helpful to individuals with severe COVID-19 symptoms. Is that true and if so are we currently using these drugs in Rochester’s hospitals to combat this virus? What volume of stock do we have on hand? Also, the news is reporting that the Federal PPE stockpile is almost diminished. Based on current and projected rates in Monroe County, how long will our local stockpile last? Given the NYC situation, is it likely we’ll get the PPE we need?  What “out of the box” solutions are we contemplating to protect our hospital medical staff and first responders?  The news is also reporting a shortage of oxygen in NYC hospitals. Where do we stand with oxygen resources?

Michelle Robertson — Why are the major big box stores like Walmart now showing most of the items they used to ship without any problem now designated as “in-store purchase only?” This is for non-perishable items. You would think they would want to keep as many people out of the stores as possible. This makes it very difficult for those who are unable to shop in stores for whatever reason to obtain needed items.

Deb Hurlburt — If you come in contact with an infected person (symptomatic or not), how long before a test would show you positive?

Joel Scheuer — I look at NYS’s Department of Health Coronavirus update and it seems all the extra resources, make-shift hospital rooms, ventilators, masks, testing sites, are in the New York City area.  Is Monroe County getting more hospital rooms, ventilators, masks, and testing site from the state as well?  Or is Monroe County on its own to get these additional resources?

Rick Hoffman — This question is about people who take immune suppressant medication like Humira. Is there any guideline we should follow and observe?

John Rockett — First I would like to thank you and your colleagues for all that you are doing. My question is regarding the Deparmentt of Social Services. I’m sure you are aware of the directives issued by the governor’s office regarding home visits for essential staff in CPS. They recommend using alternative contacts such as phone and FaceTime whenever possible and only going out to homes that are safe when absolutely necessary. It is my understanding that Monroe County is not adhering to these guidelines and sending caseworkers to homes for referrals that don’t appear to be life threatening or are in immediate danger. Can you speak to why this is occurring?

Adam Johnson — As a part of my job I work with refrigerated and frozen bodily fluids on a regular basis. It has been widely reported that the COVID-19 virus can survive on surfaces for multiple days. What effect, if any, does temperature have on the virus?

Tim Smith — Question to Dr. Michael Mendoza: When an antibody test for the coronavirus is developed, what is the possibility that it could be something we can do from home, by pricking our finger and sending in a sample of our blood by the USPS mail?

Mary Brett — Is the county considering civil penalties, fines or charges for situations such as the one that occurred at Strong Memorial Hospital recently when a man did not share his health status?
Exactly how is this being dealt with?

Karen Heaney — There has been some discussion that Gov Cuomo is considering sending overflow COVID-19 patients to Western New York and/or Monroe County. How will you balance the welfare of Monroe County and Western New York residents with the needs of those areas overwhelmed with COVID19 cases? What other options are there to provide medical care to New York City area? What are risks of transporting patients across the state?

CJ Zimmerman — I understand that there are no visitors in ICU when someone has COVID-19. I cannot understand why one visitor, fully suited up, cannot sit with their loved one when they die. If that loved one is positive for COVID they will be isolated in the house with non-infected people, it is happening in tens of thousands of homes, but when the ill person goes to the hospital now nobody can be with them. Is the risk of exposure any different?  Why can’t exceptions be made.  I cannot think of anything worse than my spouse, my child, my sibling or my parent dying all alone in the hospital. If I am dying alone in an ICU can I go home to die?  Remember, I was living at home before I went to the hospital.  Please explain to me if this is all true and if so the rationale behind the decision.

Anonymous — Question for Adam Bello: Can a business that is closed because it is considered non-essential reopen before April 30?

Anonymous — Question and statement for Adam Bello: As a CPS worker for the county I can confirm that we are being told that it is in fact still a requirement to enter people’s homes for all reports, not just those that are high risk or have legitimate safety concerns. What are the guidelines we are supposed to follow and who is making sure they are being enforced? Additionally, HR has yet to provide guidelines for employees that need to take part in the EFMELA that was supposedly in effect as of Wednesday. When will this information be readily available to county employees? I have informed my supervisor of the need for leave and have been given no answer on how to proceed. 

Anonymous — For Adam Bello: How long will the Monroe County Clerk’s office be closed for pistol permit transactions? If the closure is for an extended period, what are your thoughts about completing transactions by appointment, drop off or issuing purchase coupons like Livingston and Orleans Counties?

Anonymous — Is any plan in place to provide hazard pay for essential employees? There’s been a generous leave for those who get sick, but nothing to compensate medical personnel or government employees who are risking exposure as part of their jobs.

Anonymous — What should, or could I do if a neighbor has a business in the house that is mandated to be closed per New York state? Customers still keep coming into the house.

Anonymous— For Mr. Bello: Has any thought been given to the fact that soon, very soon, the annual garage sales/yard sales/estate sales/etc. will once again be underway?  Does “social distancing” deem these to be put on hold?  If someone does have a sale, will there be enforcement procedures and/or fines to shut it down?

Anonymous — I’ve been told that county employees and clients who enter Monroe County Department of Human Services on Westfall Road have to be screened and temperature taken before they are allowed to enter the building. Why isn’t the same being done at the St. Paul DHS location? Many workers have stated they have never had their temperature taken. What is this not being done at each location to keep workers and clients safe?

Thank you for sending us your questions. Keep them coming and we’ll make sure our local leaders answer them. Send your coronavirus questions through email at newsroom@wroctv.com, to our Facebook, or to our Twitter. 

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