ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – Monroe County Executive Director Adam Bello and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza released an update on the Monroe County coronavirus pandemic on Thursday.
This briefing kicked off a new weekly series of virtual media briefings, where the two government officials will provide regular updates on the state of the county’s COVID-19 response efforts, as well as ways to protect residents.
Citing a New York Times study, the executive director of Bello County said Monroe County had the lowest percentage of COVID-19 cases in the country for communities of more than 500,000 people. However, the county administration says it is important for residents to stay on the course that led to this relative success.
“I encourage the community, especially as we continue in the fall and winter, to stay alert, not to give up on the protocols that have come this far,”
“The reality is that we are on the road and we have a long way to go,” said Dr. Mendoza. “We are doing very well, we are doing among the best. We are on top and I want to stay there. ”
As for the perception of cases that are increasing at the local level, the health commissioner attributes this to an increase in local tests.
“We have seen a recent increase in new cases in the last few weeks, but this is mainly due to an increase in tests at the local level,” said Dr Mendoza. “Essentially, we’re doing more community monitoring as a result of all this testing, and I think you can see that when you look at the growing overall tests, but the actual percentage of those positive tests is stable so far. So I think we’re finding those cases that have been around all along that we’re now aware of because we’re testing more. “
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The health commissioner said the virus is spreading in isolated clusters and it is important to watch out for day-to-day practices such as shared travel.
“We had a very large cluster that we were still investigating at the time we thought it might be workplace-related, but in fact the connection was that a lot of people in that community were traveling together,” Dr. Mendoza said. “Be careful how you travel. This puts a person at greater risk in the perspective of COVID. “
As for nursing homes, the health commissioner says this has been a problem since the beginning of the pandemic, especially for staff, and the health department continues to monitor these facilities closely.
“Here in Monroe County, the biggest responsibility in nursing homes is actually the staff,” said Dr. Mendoza. “We know that the staff was the reason for the introduction of old people’s homes earlier. We were very careful, so we test the whole staff at least once a week. “
As the holidays approach, the health commissioner said the county will publish guidelines for family and social gatherings.
“Here we are working on guidelines in the health department, which we hope to issue in early November, which describe just that – how can we look at travel over the next holidays and how can we do it safely?” Dr Mendoza said. “The reality is that it’s important for us to reconnect, but we want to make sure we do it safely. Much of our guidance will depend on where we are in November and December. “
Dr Mendoza said he did not think the vaccine would be widely available anywhere in the United States by the end of the year or even in the first six months of 2021. He said he would approve the vaccine in our community only when he knew about that it is safe and effective. He said he would look at the data from the experiments to determine when the time came.
The health commissioner warned that the flu season posed a threat to hospital capacity, and urged residents to get the flu as soon as possible.
“It’s October 15 right now, and we really haven’t started the flu season here in Monroe County, and we’ve seen cases so far most of the year,” Dr. Mendoza said. “The most important guide I can offer is to make sure you’ve got the flu, because that’s what we can control about the number of flu here in Monroe County.”
The health commissioner said most of the schools had done a good job of complying with safety measures. He says the real concern is gatherings and travel.
“These are those gatherings in our backyards, in our homes, in the community – this is the biggest risk, even in colleges,” Dr. Mendoza said. “This is not due to school attendance, but to social gatherings that take place outside of school.”
As for Thursday’s update, the Monroe County Department of Public Health announced 52 new cases of COVID-19, two new deaths, 37 hospitalizations and seven in the intensive care unit.
If you are interested in testing for COVID-19, you can find more information on how to do it online.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we continue to update this evolving story.