ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza spoke on hospital capacities Tuesday, explaining that many regional hospital systems are at or over capacity. The commissioner, alongside other local health officials, outlined some reasons for this crowding, and laid out steps community members can take to help alleviate the strain.

The commissioner was joined by officials such as Executive Vice President of Strong Memorial Hospital Kathleen Parrinello, and Chief Medical Officer at Rochester Regional Health Dr. Robert Mayo.

One major reason for hospital crowding is the current staffing shortage for nursing homes, Dr. Mendoza and Parrinello said. They explained that many patients currently hospitalized are ready and waiting to be discharged to nursing homes, however the homes are unable to accept new patients, leaving the individuals in hospital beds that they don’t need.

As the winter months get closer, Dr. Mendoza warned of a “triple-demic” this winter that will drive hospital visits up: RSV, the flu, and COVID-19 cases are all anticipated to rise as temperatures drop outside.

“We already seeing a severe RSV season, all signs are pointing towards an influenza increase, and we know COVID is ready to surge again,” Dr. Mendoza said.

To help keep hospital beds open for those who need them the most, all experts encouraged members of the community to get their flu shots, COVID-19 boosters, and other seasonal vaccines.

Additionally, Dr. Mendoza encouraged individuals who aren’t feeling well to stay home, and consider wearing a mask when in public, even if they are sick with something other than COVID-19.

“Today COVID is no longer the virus causing the most or only concern as we enter into the winter month,” Dr. Michael Apostolakos, the Chief Medical Officer of Strong Memorial Hospital, said.

He said that currently, 140 patients are in Strong Memorial Hospital who have tested positive for COVID-19. However, only 20 were hospitalized due to the virus — the rest were hospitalized for other issues and concerns, and were found to incidentally have COVID-19.

Dr. Mayo also encouraged individuals to make sure they are seeking the appropriate level of care, whether that’s a doctor’s office, emergency room, or urgent care office.

“The crowding of emergency rooms is a big concern for all of us,” Dr. Mayo said. “We’d like to ask you to firstly, to be patient. But also be clear about your symptoms, so that the nurses and doctors who are caring for you can understand the level of triage you need.”

Mayo encouraged individuals to also consider speaking with their primary care physicians to determine the appropriate method of care for their conditions.

“Above all we will not turn anyone away from our emergency rooms,” Dr. Mayo emphasized, encouraging those with critical needs to continue to seek care.

In addition to vaccines and healthy habits from community members, Parrinello highlighted the need for financial support for nursing homes.

Should the numbers continue to rise, officials said that hospitals may employ certain tools, such as pausing elective surgeries, to ensure care quality. However, they explained this is a last resort, and one that would only work in addition to community efforts.

“We are very concerned about overburdening our healthcare system,” Dr. Apostolakos said. “[It’s] vitally important that we partner with out community, that people get vaccinated against COVID, that they get vaccinated against the flu, and that they use the emergency room for urgent and emergent matters. That way, we can continue to provide all the healthcare that our community deserves and that we’d like to provide to them.”