ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza hosted host a coronavirus briefing Thursday afternoon to update residents on the county’s ongoing pandemic response efforts.

New numbers

Bello reported 337 new COVID-19 cases in Monroe County Thursday, bringing the county’s seven day average of new cases per day too 253, up from last Thursday’s 224, and 191, respectively.

“This increase underscores the importance of getting the vaccine,” Bello said. “The vaccine is the best way to celebrate the holiday season.”

“We are once again at a turning point in the pandemic,” Dr. Mendoza said.

The health commissioner said contact tracing efforts reveal a familiar pattern in terms of the origins of new cases, including social indoor gatherings and household transmission.

On Wednesday county officials reported a seven-day rolling average positivity rate of 4.6% — the county’s highest rate since January during last winter’s holiday surge. However, according to the health commissioner, the use of at-home COVID-19 testing kits could be leading to an “artificially high” positivity rate, with more people reporting positive results to the health department, and not reporting negative results as often.

Additionally, according to the New York State Department of Health, regional hospitalization rates remain at their highest levels since February in the Finger Lakes.

Local health officials report new COVID-19 deaths on Mondays; 1,439 Monroe County residents have died from COVID-19 to date.

Vaccines for 5-11

The county leaders were joined by pediatricians from University of Rochester Medical Center an Rochester Regional Health, Dr. Stephen Cook and Dr. Steven Schultz, respectively.

U.S. health officials on Tuesday gave the final signoff to Pfizer’s kid-size COVID-19 shot, a major expansion of the nation’s vaccination campaign. In Monroe County, kids aged 5 to 11 began receiving their shots Wednesday.

“I am a father of a 10-year-old and have the same questions like the parents in Monroe County,” Bello said. “We know the demand is great. This is a priority for my administration.”

The county executive said there will be pediatric vaccination clinics for children 5-11 in Greece, Pittsford and Rochester on Saturdays and Sundays, starting this week, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. by appointment. Appointments can be made online at the county’s website. The county executive said some walk-in vaccinations would be welcome if availability allowed for it.

Patients must be accompanied by a parent or guardian with proper consent documentation, according to county officials. The locations of the 5-11 vaccine clinics are as follows:

  • Mall at Greece Ridge, 112 Greece Ridge Center Drive, Rochester NY 14626
  • Edgerton R-Center, 41 Backus Street, Rochester NY 14608
  • MCC Downtown Campus, corner of 321 State State and Morrie Silver Way, Rochester NY 14608
  • Pittsford Plaza, lower level entrance by Century Wines, 3349 Monroe Avenue, Rochester NY 14618

“It is so important for our kids to get and stay in school,” Bello said. “Having your child vaccinated is the best way to keep our kids in the classroom. The new announcement is a great option for parents that don’t have a pediatrician or more options for parents.”

“We are not only protecting our kids, we protect the classmates, the elderly, our family, and everyone else around them,” Dr. Cook said.

“Everyone is trying to get their hands on this,” Dr. Schultz said. “Our practices here at Rochester Regional Health are preparing to offer the vaccine for parents, either at clinics or dedicated locations hosted by the county. Families are encouraged to talk to their pediatrician and primary doctor to get an understanding of where and when to go.”

Other matters

The county executive reminded residents that there is currently a vaccination campaign sponsored by the county, that offers $50 per shot for people to be vaccinated, or $100 for the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Regarding “test to stay” options for schools, the health commissioner said officials are still reviewing the data and possibilities, particularly of how testing resources can be used fairly between districts, as New York State Department of Health officials have said they would not provide extra resources or assistance for districts who opted to utilize the test to stay strategy.

“We understand that there is significant interest from districts to allow students to continue school if they well and test negative,” Dr. Mendoza said. “Test to stay is a reasonable approach, as long as the details of equity are resolved. I realize that test to stay is a huge relief, but now that vaccines will be available to virtually all school-aged children, asymptomatic close contacts won’t need to test to stay — vaccinated kids just get to stay.”

As fatigued as the community may collectively be in regards to the pandemic, the health commissioner says now isn’t the time to let any guards down.

“If I had a dollar for every time I thought the end was in sight for this pandemic, I’d be a very rich man,” Dr. Mendoza said. “The reality is we just have to keep on going.”

Watch the full press briefing

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