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November 30, 2020 - 5:46pm

Health director reports number of COVID-19 cases has reached new threshold

The number of COVID-19 cases in Genesee County has reached a new plateau, the county’s public health director reported this afternoon.

Speaking at the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee meeting via Zoom videoconferencing, Paul Pettit said positive cases in the month of November have pushed the total to more than 1,000 since the outbreak of the pandemic.

“Today, unfortunately, we will be announcing that we crossed over that thousand number threshold of positive cases since the beginning,” Pettit said, adding that about 500 or 600 have come during this month.

Pettit said the health department’s message of social distancing, smaller gathering and wearing a mask is as important as ever.

“We all know people who have had it and some people with more severe cases, too. So, again, it’s a little more troubling of a trend that we’re trying to keep an eye on and do our best to keep educating and hope people will adhere to the advice,” he said.

He also reported on the number of Genesee County residents who are hospitalized at this time with COVID-19.

“I think we have 12 people right now that are hospitalized as Genesee County residents, but they’re not necessarily in Genesee County -- they may be in Rochester or Buffalo hospitals,” he said, noting that a dozen hospitalizations translate to about 8 percent of the 130 to 140 active cases.

“Obviously, we went through a period where we didn’t have anybody in the hospital. Once someone gets hospitalized, they’re obviously having enough issues – breathing or some other secondary issue that they can’t manage at home.”

Pettit said the county averaged about 35 cases per day over the holiday break, which is equivalent to 425 to 450 in Monroe County. He said the numbers are “fairly high” and they could jump significantly if the “potential Thanksgiving bump that has been predicted” transpires.

“We should know by the end of the week into early next week if we’re going to have a lot of additional cases stemming from the holiday gatherings. We’ll be watching that closely,” he said.

He also said the heath department is working on a plan for rapid asymptomatic testing, as well as a strategy to deliver vaccine that will be arriving in the next week or two.

“I don’t expect to see a lot of it (vaccine) on the front end; it will be very targeted toward our highest-risk folks,” he advised.

Overall, Genesee County’s numbers are some of the highest in the Finger Lakes Region, Pettit said.

“We’re working hard trying to get those down and, again, a lot of that is going to come down to personal behavior – wearing masks and reducing density and mass gatherings,” he said.

As far as staffing, Pettit said the health department has added two employees and another will be starting soon.

"These are full-time temporary positions that have been created over the last month (with legislature approval) to assist with COVID response activities, and they 100-percent funded by a COVID grant," Pettit said. "These positions will help with case investigations, contact tracing, data entry and phone calls. We have hired an individual for the COVID specialist position, starting later this week, and will be interviewing this week for the financial clerk position."

In a related development, the committee recommended approval of a resolution to accept a $13,566 grant from the state Department of Health to support flu and COVID-19 response activities, with Pettit advising that a large portion of the funding will be used to cover employees' overtime.

The award, good through June 30, will be added to the health department's 2021 budget by another resolution in January, Pettit said.

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