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January 31, 2022 - 6:29pm

Genesee County health director: COVID numbers are trending in the right direction

posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Paul Pettit, COVID-19, omicron.

Cases of people who have contracted the omicron variant of the coronavirus are trending in the right direction, giving Genesee-Orleans Public Health Director Paul Pettit cause for optimism that COVID-19 could become an endemic rather than a pandemic in the coming months.

“We’re seeing that decline … which is good,” Pettit said at this afternoon’s Genesee County Legislature Human Services Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse. “The numbers now are the same that we saw in October and November.”

Pettit said that typically in the spring – when people get back outdoors and “change behaviors” – the numbers will stay low.

“Hopefully, we will see it go down back to a baseline level,” he said.

When asked by legislators if the pandemic could be over, Pettit said that he and his colleagues were talking about the endemic stage last summer, before the new strain came into being.

He said that he thinks that COVID will not go away totally, but eventually would be treated like the flu or other respiratory illnesses.

Pettit said the local health department is focusing on education and the utilization of “tools that we have now that we didn’t have last year,” primarily vaccine boosters, anti-viral medications and natural immunity as well as the continued practice of layered mitigation strategies such as staying home when sick, distancing and masking as indicated based on current public health guidance.  

“We’re providing an ongoing component of education; knowledge and information on how to protect yourself,” he said.

Responding to Legislator Gary Maha’s observation that servers and patrons at many restaurants are no longer wearing face coverings, Pettit said the mask mandate instituted by Gov. Kathy Hochul remains in place – at least for a couple more weeks due to a stay on a decision by a downstate judge who ruled that Hochul did not have such authority.

County Manager Matt Landers said that he is expecting another 2,500 in-home rapid antigen test kits by the end of the week and will be reaching out to towns and villages to see who wants to distribute them to their residents.

According to data on the county health department website, the number of new cases from Jan. 19-25 was 745, down from 1,848 from Jan. 5-11 and 1,104 from Jan. 12-18.

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