Free rapid take-home tests and booster shots coming to Monroe County

Monroe County

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — We are officially under a state of emergency in Monroe County due to being low on hospital bed spaces and COVID-19 cases still increasing.

In less than 24 hours, National Guard troops will be here to assist the local healthcare system in free up space, but more is also being done to slow the spread.  

The first group of 26 National Guard Medics will be arriving on Saturday. All of them are trained Emergency Medical Technicians who will help nursing home staff open more bed space to get recovered elderly patients out of hospitals like here. 

For weeks, many non-coronavirus elderly patients who’ve recovered in the hospital have been stuck with nowhere to go. Because nursing homes have not been accepting new residents due to staff shortages. Once the National Guard arrives, that can change.  
 
“If we can help the shortage on nursing home beds and nursing home space,” County Executive Adam Bello said. “That would help the rest of the healthcare system be able to move.”  

Doctors and government officials believe the next way to curve the rise in cases, lowering hospitalizations, is getting take-home COVID-19 test kits out to pharmacies, clinics, and physician offices. Where anyone with insurance can buy them and get reimbursed by their provider. Those uninsured can still get them at County run sites.  
 
“The importance of making tests available so that if they’re positive the person can take the important steps and isolate for the 10 days,” Dr. Emil Lesho with Rochester General Hospital told us.  

If people can be quarantined immediately without spreading the virus, infections can go down. But doctors like Emil Lesho caution rapid tests can sometimes produce false negatives. So, it’s best to take two.  
 
“If you have good exposure to someone and feel symptoms but test yourself and you’re negative, it could be a false positive,” Dr. Lesho continued.  

Monroe County Purchased 750,000 of these rapid tests. Which will begin to arrive next week. Still, doctors agree the best weapon is getting the vaccine, especially boosters with Omicron now rising. Under President Biden’s Winter COVID-19 plan, those are being given out free at over 80,000 locations across the nation. 

“What the booster shot does is it takes the immunity to a higher level of immunity and protection,” Dr. Joseph Sellers, President of the Medical Society for the state of New York, said. “So, anybody who has been out six months from either Moderna or Pfizer or more than two months from the Johnson and Johnson vaccine we recommend getting a booster.”  

Rochester General Hospital Doctors told us 9 out of ten COVID-19 patients in their ICU and on ventilators are unvaccinated. Most in their care who are vaccinated but had breakthrough cases on the other hand recovered in just about a week.  

Rapid COVID-19 test kits will also go to local school districts in Monroe County to keep using. If yours does come back positive you must call your doctor and the Department of Health immediately. 

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