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December 9, 2021 - 12:32pm

Genesee, Orleans healthcare, government officials making push to 'boost' lagging vaccination numbers

With the percentage of Genesee and Orleans county residents who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine significantly less than the New York State number, local healthcare and government officials are stepping up their efforts to reach those who, for one reason or another, are among the “vaccine hesitant.”

Speaking during a media briefing via Zoom this morning, Genesee/Orleans Public Health Director Paul Pettit reiterated what he has been saying for the past year: “That vaccines are the best protection against the coronavirus … and against severe illness and death.”

Statistics provided by Pettit reveal that 61.8 percent of Genesee County residents and 59.3 percent of Orleans County residents, when looking at the total population, have received at least one dose of the Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. (The first two are administered in two shots; J&J is one shot).

That pales in comparison to the state as a whole, with the percentage of the total population that has received at least one shot at 79.4 and the percentage of those 18 and older at 91.8.

When looking at the completed series, Genesee County’s number falls to 55.9 percent and Orleans is at 52 percent. In the age 5-11 category, Genesee is at 10.6 percent and Orleans at 9.5 percent.

For the eight-county Finger Lakes Region, the one-dose percentage is at 70.7 percent and the completed series percentage is at 63.1 percent, Pettit reported.

“That’s why we again are trying to get our vaccination rates up as high as we can,” he said. “COVID vaccines significantly reduce the likelihood of hospitalization and death.”

Pettit placed special emphasis on the vaccine booster shots that recently became available.

“We just need to go and get that booster shot now and make sure we're protecting ourselves as best as we can,” he said, adding that both Genesee and Orleans health departments continue to offer weekly COVID-19 vaccination clinics (Wednesdays in Genesee County and Thursdays in Orleans County).

Joining Pettit on the call were Dan Ireland, president of United Memorial Medical Center; Matt Landers, Genesee County manager; Marianne Clattenburg, Genesee County legislator, and Lynne Johnson, Orleans County Legislature chair.

Acknowledging the need to improve Genesee County’s vaccination numbers, Landers – as initially reported on The Batavian – mentioned the Finger Lakes Region’s push for a “targeted rural campaign” focused on hard to reach populations such as Native American, Amish and Mennonite, hard to reach zip codes and under vaccinated zip codes.

“We’re trying to find more creative ways to attack and go after targeted media advertising towards them,” he said, adding the plan is to use direct advertising, postcards and other mailings. “Their targets are not necessarily trying to change minds of people that are absolutely set, but it's really to educate, to go after vaccine hesitancy and to go after some of the harder to reach populations potentially …”

On the hospital side, Ireland said UMMC and Rochester Regional Health’s “number one priority” is to maintain full access to healthcare in the community, noting that UMMC is open for all types of elective surgeries at this time.

He also pointed out the importance of getting vaccinated, wearing masks where appropriate and getting tested, especially prior to social or family gatherings.

He said that his family did just that before Thanksgiving and, fortunately, no one tested positive.

“So, really it’s a small step, but it makes a big difference,” he said. “And it will help us on the hospital side. Because certainly as we continue to have a fair number of unvaccinated in the community. It makes a difference when they become positive as we're seeing a higher percentage of unvaccinated patients in our hospital versus the vaccinated COVID patients.”

Statistically, Ireland said that there are more than 200 patients who have tested positive for COVID in RRH hospitals, with 11 percent of those at UMMC. Sixty-two percent in the Intensive Care Unit are COVID positive, with 80 percent of those people unvaccinated.

“Put in non-statistical terms, the unvaccinated truly are showing signs of higher acuity in the hospital,” he said, noting that 100 percent of patients on ventilators are unvaccinated.

Ireland said UMMC continues to partner across the RRH system and with other hospitals in the region to “work on any load balancing options that we can provide; in order to make sure that all patients in our region get care, regardless of where you seek that care.”

He added that 95 percent of RRH outpatient clinics are open, although he did say that wait times may be longer than normal.

Looking at specific areas of concern:

COMMUNITY SPREAD

Pettit said the number of positive cases have remained steady recently but are still too high, with 250 active cases in Genesee County and 334 active cases in Orleans County. Forty-eight of those are in the hospital (35 in Genesee and 13 in Orleans).

Over the past seven days, the positivity rate in Genesee and Orleans is at 12.5 percent and 12.2 percent, respectively.

As far as breakthrough cases are concerned (positive tests of those who are fully vaccinated), Pettit said the percentages are 30 percent in Genesee and 29 percent in Orleans – with these types of cases increasing over the past two months.

He urged those who have been vaccinated with Moderna or Pfizer at least six months ago and those who had the J&J vaccine at least two months ago to get a booster shot.

Pettit pointed out that most of the spread is from social gatherings "where there's prolonged contact indoors" and from those who think they just have a cold (due to it being cold and flu season).

"So, again, one of our messages we've said from day one is if you're symptomatic, stay home, don't go to work, don't go to school, stay home while you have the symptoms, get that test and verify," he said. "Regardless of COVID, we don't want to be spreading germs around."

COVID-19 TESTING

Pettit said that limited testing is being offered at both health departments by appointment, and that local pharmacies and urgent care centers also are providing testing.

He advised that home testing kits will become more prevalent as time goes on, and that GO Health is getting closer to accepting results of home testing.

“Ultimately, they are very accurate, if done properly. And a positive is a positive on those test kits. So, again, we'd encourage you to get those and use them if available,” he said.

Homebound individuals are asked to call their health departments (Genesee: 585-344-2550, ext. 5555; Orleans, 585-589-3278) to get on a list for a home visit.

OMICRON VARIANT

Pettit said the Omicron variant has not bee identified in Genesee or Orleans, but “that does not mean that it is not here, it just means that it has not been detected (yet).”

He said the new variant likely spreads more easily than the original COVID virus, very similar to how Delta (variant) spread a lot easier.

“The early indication is that the severity does not seem to be too bad again, but it is early and they're continuing to track that,” he offered.

CONTACT TRACING

For those in isolation or quarantine, responding to health department or New York State contract tracers is essential, Pettit said.

“I can't reiterate this enough,” he said. “We need folks to answer the phone; we need folks to engage with us during the process. Because if we don't, if we're not able to do the investigation, and we're not able to talk to you, to release you, we can't send the (release) letter.”

GUIDANCE IN SCHOOLS

Pettit said the collective goal is to keep students in school, and “this year, I think we've done a fairly good job of that.”

Per state mandate, masking continues to be required indoors at schools.

He said his department is talking with superintendents about new strategies, specifically Test to Stay and Test Out of Quarantine.

“There is a checklist and the schools have those and we are discussing how we can implement but ultimately they have to have a written plan around how they would implement these different approaches within their school system,” he said. “And one of the biggest barriers is that it has to be done equitable. We can't have this just for some kids and not for others …”

tom hunt
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Despite these damming facts, the Anti-Vaxers will reverse these numbers and continue to spread their lies and misinformation to justify their position. To quote a German minister last month:" by Spring there will be three classes of people in Germany: the vaccinated, the sick, and the dead."

Howard B. Owens
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I just deleted the link to this post from Facebook -- it's too hard to deal with all the misinformation that gets attached to our COVID-19 posts on Facebook. It's a complete cesspool.

david spaulding
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Forcing people to do something against their will has come to America. I call it dictatorship. When an elected leader forces a person to do something to their body against their will or they will lose their employment, it is no longer a free country. N. Korea, China, yes it wouldn't surprise me. . You now have to carry written proof of your compliance to Government Mandates (Orders) or do not enter. Next a mandate will order you to have a programmable device inserted in your body. If you fail to fall in order, your income will be taken (like now) and your assets confiscated. There is a lot more going on here than "Anti-Vaxxers" . A Mayor dictating a City to comply? A Governor Dictating a State to comply? A President Dictating a Country to comply? No one see a problem with that in America? It is the precedence that is being set.

David Reilly
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I do not see any problem with mandates when they are saving my life and the lives of others. They would not be necessary if people would follow science and not conspiracy theories.
Thank you Howard for deleting the FB post and comments. It’s very disconcerting to see how brainwashed people are and the lies they have been convinced to believe.

david spaulding
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I can agree Mr. Reilly ," The Brainwashed people and the lies they have been convinced to believe ".... It is incredible how the U.S. Government has brainwashed its people to fear an invisible virus, isn't it ? The brainwashed have gotten the Vaccine, wouldn't you say?

David Reilly
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No Mr. Spaulding I would not agree at all. And I find it sad that you distrust your own government so much that you would endanger your own health and the health of others because of it.
Vaccination was successful for smallpox,polio, measles, rubella, and now Covid. That’s scientific fact.
Galileo was accused of heresy for believing that the earth rotated around the sun. But that was the 1600s. I thought we had progressed in our thinking since then but I am finding out differently.

C. M. Barons
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How is it (with the scores of vaccinations requisite for school attendance, military service and health field employment) that decades of mandated vaccinations have largely gone unchallenged that COVID vaccinations have become such a Rubicon? It can't REALLY be due to religious confliction, because very few religions object to vaccinations. It can't REALLY be due to politicization, because by now everyone must know someone who has succumbed to COVID. It can't REALLY be due to the vaccine being new/untested, because (at least) 234,000,000 Americans have been vaccinated with less than 5/million having had an adverse reaction. So what is it? Adults afraid of needles?

Howard B. Owens
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David, which mandates are you referring to? The ones that tell you not to speed? To stop at stop signs? Not smoke in restaurants? No shirts. no shoes, no service? Decades of prior vaccine mandates? The selective service system? Taxes? Social Security taxes? Medicare taxes?

Why is trying to keep people alive suddenly a threat to liberty? It's nonsensical.

The only brainwashed people are the ones who believe lies about COVID, about the vaccines, about "lost freedoms."

The vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary to protect our ability to move about society freely and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Get vaccinated.

Frank Bartholomew
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Hmmm, guess I know how I ended up brainwashed, never got a flu shot, but got the flu several times. I want to get a booster too, because I want it, not because Uncle Joe wants me to. More evidence of self-inflicted brainwashing.

david spaulding
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Howard, every "mandate" you stated has been Legislated, not mandated. From what I understand there is a procedure called the Legislative process. Starts out as an idea, turns into a bill then Elected officials who represent the People vote to enact the bill into law. I understand that an elected official can claim some kind of emergency and assume Temporary leadership power. What my post is talking about is one person Dictating to the American People what they will and will not do. How long is Temporary ? If you don't follow orders/mandates you will lose your employment. I wonder what happens when your right to feed and clothe yourself is taken away. You all are talking about a Shot in the arm, you all are "following the science" (brainwash term) similar to "gun violence", raise your hand if you ever heard of Dr. Fauci before this so called Pandemic started. He's a scientist? How do you know? Because you saw him on television and the caption said "Dr. Fauci, scientist"... Howard I am Not against any vaccination, I am against my Government, the US Government over stepping their authority and Dictating to me and all Americans. You'll be upset when the Government Edits what you can print. It happens in other parts of the world, it can happen here.

Howard B. Owens
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A mandate is a mandate however enacted. It's still a government requirement. When cigarette bans were enacted, no protester ever said "it's OK because it's legislation."

Being required to wear a mask is far from an infringement on freedom. Saying so cheapens what freedom means.

"If you don't follow orders/mandates you will lose your employment."

Employers, including the government, have a right to set the terms of employment.

Following the science is not a brainwash term. People who don't follow science are the ones who have swallowed utter nonsense instead of common sense.

What the hell does it matter if anybody ever heard of Fauci? A meaningless point.

I'm against the government overstepping its authority, too. Fortunately, that isn't happening here.

Comparing mask mandates and vaccine mandates with a free press right is again utterly ridiculous and cheapens the meaning of what real liberty is.

David Reilly
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When there is a global pandemic government does not have time to wait for legislation to pass. Public health safety measures need to be enacted quickly . That’s why we have government.
Anthony Fauci has been well known and highly respected in the field of disease prevention for many years. Scientists are not supposed to be rock stars. There are plenty of people who we have never heard of but who work tirelessly every day to make the world a better place. ((Teachers for one example).

C. M. Barons
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"Forcing people to do something against their will has come to America. I call it dictatorship." When I turned 18 I (along with every other male) had to register for the draft. When I applied for my first job I had to submit to a physical. I had to register for Social Security. In the early half of the 20th Century people were deported and/or lost their jobs for being members of questionable political parties. People have been attacked and killed for organizing labor unions. African-Americans were segregated and deprived of civil rights. Native-Americans were slaughtered and relocated. Japanese-Americans were interned during WW II. Gays were prosecuted for not being heterosexual. Mixed-race marriages were illegal. Women have been sterilized against their will. Practicing Catholicism was illegal in half the colonies- sometimes punishable by death. Where in the grand scheme of things does a mask requirement fit in?

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