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November 30, 2021 - 8:58am

Legislative committee approves a nearly $1 million grant to fund Public Health Corps program in Genesee County

A nearly $1 million grant may be on its way to Genesee County Public Health to boost “workforce capacity" in the department's battle against COVID-19 and to enhance efforts in other areas, Public Health Director Paul Pettit said Monday afternoon.

Speaking at the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse, Pettit offered a resolution – which subsequently was approved by the HSC – to accept $980,544 from the New York State Department of Health to recruit, train, deploy and manage the NYS Public Health Corps Fellowship Program.

Touted by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Public Health Corps consists of individuals of all educational levels (“fellows”) that have been accepted to participate in the program designed to “bolster and improve public health workforce capacity,” Pettit said.

The grant will run for two years, through July 31, 2023, he said, with $250,000 of the money allocated in the 2022 budget. The remaining amount will be part of the county’s 2023 budget.

Pettit said he has a list of about 15 people who have applied to join the Public Health Corps.

The HSC also approved a contract with Coastal Staffing of Naples, Fla., to serve as the staffing agency or employer for those selected into the program.

“Genesee County will interview these individuals and if they are hired, then they will go through Coastal Staffing as their employer,” Pettit advised.

In other action related to the health department, the committee gave the go-ahead to accept an $11,000 grant from the National Association of County and City Health Officials for Genesee County to participate in a wastewater surveillance mentorship program. This will run from Jan. 1-July 31, 2022.

Pettit said the money will be used by health department officials to monitor the viral load in municipal wastewater systems throughout the county and to provide guidance and recommendations going forward if necessary.

Both measures will be considered by the full legislature at its Dec. 8 meeting.

COVID-19 LOCAL UPDATE

Reporting on the current COVID-19 picture in Genesee County, Pettit said the average number of cases per day over the last seven days has been steady at around 34, while the percentage of breakthrough cases is at 30-35 – up about 10 percent from what he had been seeing.

As of yesterday, there were 241 active cases – those in isolation – with 28 of those people in the hospital, he said.

Pettit said that 70 percent of Genesee County residents 18 years of age and older have received at least one vaccine shot, with that number decreasing to 59.6 percent when considering the county’s total population. That is much less than the 90 percent of NYS residents 18 and over who have received at least one shot.

He said the county health department is offering the complete spectrum of vaccinations – first shot, booster and doses for children ages 5-11.

“Booster clinics have been very steady,” Pettit said, adding that early studies show that booster shots provide a significant increase in protection from the coronavirus.

As far as testing is concerned, the county is offering testing once a week and has been meeting the demand. Pettit did point out that testing supplies are beginning to dwindle and if the state doesn’t receive the supply it has ordered, then “free” testing could end in a few months.

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