Local Matters

Recent comments

Community Sponsors


May 26, 2022 - 7:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in COVID-19, news.

After an eight-week run of higher numbers of known COVID-19 case counts in Genesee County, the number of new positive tests reported dropped significantly over the past week.

There were 170 new positive tests reported for the seven days ending Tuesday. 

The previous week, there were 261 new positive tests reported.

May 23, 2022 - 6:03pm
posted by Press Release in Steve Hawley, 139th assembly district, news, COVID-19.

Press release

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, C, I-Batavia) is announcing that he will be making COVID-19 home test kits available through his office for free to any local organizations that could assist in distributing them to people who need them. Any groups interested in obtaining test kits are encouraged to reach out to the Assemblyman’s office at 585-589-5780 to learn more details and schedule a pickup.

“When it comes to COVID-19, we never truly know what lies ahead, and as the Boy Scouts say, it’s wise to ‘be prepared,’” said Hawley. “I encourage any and all local organizations that could put these tests to use to reach out and take advantage of this opportunity.”

May 11, 2022 - 10:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Le Roy Central Schools, news, COVID-19, flu.

When the mask mandate was first lifted for students in public schools, the number of COVID cases reported amount the Le Roy Central Schools population was low to non-existent, Superintendent Merritt Holly told school board members at Tuesday's meeting.

But like the rest of the community, case numbers have been rising, he said.

"It's just something that is just hanging here as we get into the spring," Holly said. "I think as you've seen, flu numbers are still up. The two haven't gone away. We had a good stretch where we went a couple of weeks with no cases at all and since we've come back from break, we've had three or four (cases), five on a day. So they're up a little bit from where we were."

What Le Roy is seeing in cases mirrors what is being reported in the county as a whole, though in the past week, the number of new cases has leveled off.

There were 283 new cases reported in Genesee County for the week ending May 10, which is down slightly from the 286 cases reported the week before.

As for flu, there were 14 cases reported in Genesee County in the last week of April, according to the state's flu tracker web site.  There were 19 flu cases reported the week before and five the week before that.


April 27, 2022 - 4:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in COVID-19, news, notify.

The community spread risk factor for SARS-2-CoV in Genesee County has been raised to medium by the CDC after a seven-day period in which 278 new positive COVID-19 tests were reported.

There were 212 lab-confirmed positive tests during the week and 66 self-reported positive tests from home test kits. There is no way of knowing how many people tested positive with a home test kit and didn't report the results to the health department.

This fifth straight week of increasing positive tests in the county.  

No additional deaths from COVID-19-related illnesses were reported.

The total number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations are no longer reported but UMMC does report being at 70 percent capacity with ICU also being at 70 percent capacity.

If you test positive with a home test kit, you can report the results to the health department through this link.

April 22, 2022 - 7:10pm
posted by Press Release in COVID-19, news, 139th assembly district.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, C, I-Batavia) is encouraging eligible small business owners that have incomplete applications or have not yet submitted the necessary documentation to receive COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program funding to apply before the application period for the program draws to a close on April 30. 

While Empire State Development has distributed over $550 million in funds to small businesses throughout the state since the program’s inception, much of the program’s $800 million in funds remain available to eligible small business owners who have either not started or completed their applications. Small business owners can use the following link to complete unfinished applications or view the eligibility requirements they would need to meet to begin an application: https://nysmallbusinessrecovery.com

“With all our small businesses have endured through these last few years, it would be saddening to see business owners who truly need and deserve this support go without it,” said Hawley. “I’d encourage everyone who even thinks there’s a chance they’d be eligible for this funding to look into it. They may be surprised by the assistance available to them.”

April 22, 2022 - 4:24pm
posted by Press Release in COVID-19, news.

Press release:

The Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health) are seeing an increase in the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19.  This recent increase in COVID-19 cases is due to the new Omicron variant BA.2, which spreads more easily than other earlier variants.

“We are looking at COVID-19 Community Levels of high for Orleans and medium for Genesee,” stated Paul Pettit, Director of the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments.  “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Weekly Metrics Used to Determine the COVID-19 Community Level which was updated Thursday, April 21st, Orleans County case rate per 100,000 (this calculation is used to compare larger and smaller counties) is now at 203.21.  The new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 is at 12 and the percentage of staffed inpatient beds in use by patients with confirmed COVID-19 is 4.6%.  This updated data now places Orleans at a high community level.  With this increase it is important for everyone, especially those at higher risk of complications to be more attentive with their public health prevention practices.”

Genesee County is currently at medium COVID-19 Community:  Case rate per 100,000 population is at 19.29.  New COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 is 12 and the percent of staffed inpatient beds in use by patients with confirmed COVID-19 is 4.6%.  To learn more on how community levels are determined, visit the CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

With any new COVID-19 variant circulating, it is not a surprise to see an increase of positive cases. Even with this increase, our health care capacity in the region currently remains stable with the normal bed capacity levels. Generally, the omicron variant (Omicron BA.2) causes more mild symptoms, although some people may have more severe symptoms depending on their COVD-19 vaccination status, the presence of other health conditions, age, and history of prior infection.

We encourage those that have not been vaccinated and those who are not up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccination, to be vaccinated and to talk with their primary care provider.  You can register for COVID-19 vaccination clinics here or check with your pharmacist, primary care provider, or the vaccines.gov website for other vaccination providers.

We continue to encourage residents to practice the following public health precautions to lower exposure to the virus, especially those who are at higher risk:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water and keep your hands away from your face. 
  • If you are sick, stay home, get tested and talk with your primary care provider. 
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, self-isolate and let your close contacts know to watch for symptoms and that they should consider being tested.  If you are required to submit paperwork to your school or employer, you can access that here

Consider wearing a tight-fitting facemask when you are in crowded public places.   

April 20, 2022 - 4:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in COVID-19, news, notify.

For the third straight week, the number of positive COVID-19 tests reported in Genesee county has increased significantly, according to Genesee County Health Department data released today.

Even so, the CDC rates the risk of community spread in Genesee county as low.

There were 168 new positive tests reported in the county for the week of April 13 through April 19.  In the previous week, there were 119 new cases, and in the week before that, 62, which is double the new cases from the prior week.

According to health department data, 43 of the newly reported cases were from home tests. There is no way of knowing how many people tested positive with home test report results to the county.

To report a positive home test to the health department, click here.

The CDC guidelines for areas with low community spread are: "People may choose to mask at any time. People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask."


April 20, 2022 - 7:45am
posted by Press Release in COVID-19, news.


Press release:

With the BA.2 variant increasing the number of COVID-19 transmissions, county public health directors in the Finger Lakes region today encouraged eligible residents to get their second booster shot.

BA.2, known as “stealth Omicron,” currently accounts for 80.6% of COVID-19 infections in New York state, according to the state Department of Health. The second booster of an mRNA vaccine, such as those from Pfizer or Moderna, is available to adults age 50 and older, as well as to certain immunocompromised adults.

Those eligible for a second booster need to wait at least four months after they receive their first booster dose.

“As the BA.2 variant is leading to more COVID-19 infections, the best defense against becoming severely ill remains getting vaccinated,” said Michele Foster, executive director, S2AY Rural Health Network. “We encourage eligible residents to get their second booster shot, and we urge those who are unvaccinated to get their first shot to avoid severe illness or hospitalization.”

More information about the COVID-19 vaccines is available at www.GetYourAnswers.org and the Finger Lakes COVID-19 Vaccine Hub, where people can also make a vaccine appointment. 


April 12, 2022 - 7:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Rochester Regional Health, COVID-19, news, notify.


While the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 carries with it less risk of a serious sickness, it still is a dangerous and sometimes deadly disease, and children should be protected from it, said Dr. Steven Schulz, RRH pediatrician and medical director of RRH Pediatrics in Monroe County.

The same appears to hold true, so far, for the B2 variant of omicron.

Rochester Regional Health via Zoom hosted a press conference today for reporters from throughout the region. It was pegged to a recent study published by the American Medical Association that found that the omicron variant is six to eight times more likely to lead to infections for children less than five years old but resulted, percentage-wise, in fewer hospitalizations.

Still, with nearly two percent of infected children dying as a result of an omicron-variant COVID infection, the disease remains far more deadly than the flu.

Schultz said that based on the most recent CDC numbers he's seen, 1,300 children in the U.S. have died from COVID over the past two years.  

"If we divide that in half, that's still way, way worse than any flu season we've had in recent history," Schultz said. "You hate to ever think that your child would be the one who would have the severe complication or the severe outcome, but it does happen and kids have died and do die from COVID."

Because omicron -- and so far B2 -- is more contagious, more children under age five are getting sick but because the variants do not seem to cause as many severe outcomes, area hospitals are not seeing many young children in the hospital. 

"Kids were less likely to need to go to the ER, to be hospitalized, end up in ICU, or on mechanical ventilation in this zero to five group compared to the delta," Schultz said. "That's certainly reassuring but it also doesn't mean that it's risk-free to get omicron, especially in this age group. We definitely know that we saw kids throughout that time ending up in the hospital, even though the odds might have been a little bit less compared to delta, because more kids were getting infected, we definitely still saw lots of kids in the hospitals."

It's not just immune-compromised kids, or children with other health issues, who are getting hospitalized and dying from COVID, Schultz said.  Healthy children are at risk, too.

The good news, Schultz said, is that we have a safe and effective vaccine -- the Phizer vaccine -- available to children over the age of five. 

"We know that vaccination is still the most effective way to keep children safe," Schultz said. "The COVID vaccine is safe. It's effective. It significantly reduces the chances of ending up in the hospital. So anybody who has children five years of age and up, I definitely encourage getting the COVID vaccine right now."

Since children under age five cannot be vaccinated, the best way to protect them, Schultz said, is for everybody in a household over age five to get vaccinated.

"You're protecting the younger child as well," Schultz said. "The other thing that we know, with all of this, of course, is still that masking and social distancing works. And it's not a coincidence that, since the mask mandate has been removed in early March, we're suddenly seeing increasing rates of COVID as well as influenza. There's, there's no question about it."

He noted that the positivity rate for COVID tests in the region has jumped from a recent low of three percent to 10 percent.  That's no coincidence, he said, and tied directly to the lifting of mask mandates.

Schultz has a young son who wears a mask to school every day.  Not only does it provide an extra layer of defense for him, Schultz said, it also helps other children in the school.  There are children in his class who have moderate to severe immunosuppression.  

"I completely agree that it's a greater good for the community as a whole to wear masks," Schultz said.

He disagrees with those who say masks harm children's interpersonal development.

"There have been lots of studies that actually show that it's not the case, that kids are still able to read facial expressions, that kids are still learning those interactions," Schultz said.

The other way to protect children, and others,, Schultz noted, is for parents of symptomatic young ones is to keep them home.

"There's not really any way to tell COVID from any other viral illness, based on symptoms alone," Schultz said. "A runny nose, congestion, cough, fever, even GI symptoms, they can happen with a variety of viral illnesses. Sometimes we can test to name those viruses, whether it's COVID, whether it's flu, but sometimes it's one of the other of hundreds of viruses that are out there. So if there's a suspicion or a question, especially if you have a child going to school, or daycare, or a large family gathering coming up, where there's a higher risk of transmission between people, it's really important to have your child seen and evaluated by a healthcare provider to make sure that it's not COVID In those situations."

April 1, 2022 - 4:32pm
posted by Press Release in COVID-19, news, Steve Hawley, 139th assembly district.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) announced today that he is distributing COVID-19 tests allocated to his office to towns, villages and cities within the 139th Assembly District. Residents seeking test kits are encouraged to go to their local municipal center in order to secure test kits for themselves and their families.

“We thought distributing these test kits to local municipalities would be the best means of getting them into the hands of families who need them most,” said Hawley. “I hope that this distribution will give families a good chance to get ahead of any future COVID-19 spikes, and keep their families prepared for whatever the future may hold.”

March 10, 2022 - 12:47pm
posted by Press Release in COVID-19, news, vacc.

Press release:

With COVID-19 vaccine rates among children remaining extremely low, county public health directors in the Finger Lakes region today further urged parents to get their children vaccinated.

The public health directors highlighted the current vaccination rates (as of the latest tracking data, March 3, 2022) among children ages 5 to 11 who are fully vaccinated.

  • Genesee County: 19.4%
  • Livingston County: 28.3%
  • Ontario County: 38.1%
  • Orleans County: 16.7%
  • Schuyler County: 16.5%
  • Seneca County: 21.6%
  • Steuben County: 18.3%
  • Wayne County: 25.7%
  • Yates County: 16.1%

“Children across the Finger Lakes region need to be better protected against COVID-19, and the best protection is to get vaccinated,” said Michele Foster, Executive Director

S2AY Rural Health Network. “Unfortunately, the current vaccination rates among eligible children in the region remain woefully low. The vaccines are safe and effective, and we encourage parents to get their children fully vaccinated against the virus to avoid severe illness or hospitalization.”

Children and adolescents ages 5 to 17 are eligible to receive only two doses of the Pfizer vaccine – the first dose plus a booster three weeks later. Vaccines are not yet available for children under the age of 5. Parents who have questions about the vaccines can get more information at www.GetYourAnswers.org and the Finger Lakes COVID-19 Vaccine Hub.

March 4, 2022 - 11:13am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, COVID-19, City Schools, Board of Education, notify.

Batavia City School District's Board of Education met early this morning to take a vote on making face masks optional per New York State Governor Kathy Hochul's decision to rescind the mask mandate earlier this week.

In just under three minutes, a resolution citing that "The Governor of the State of New York and the Commissioner of Health declared that face coverings are no longer mandated to be universally worn in school buildings in New York State effective March 2, 2022" was approved. The vote received a unanimous yes by board members John Reigle, Barbara Bowman, Jennifer Lendvay, Chezeray Rolle and John Marucci.

The only item of business conducted during the meeting was the vote "regarding modification of COVID-19 measures." 

The meeting is available on YouTube at:  



March 1, 2022 - 9:57pm
posted by Press Release in COVID-19, news.

Press release:

Due to the recent decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations, cases, and an increase in vaccination rates across New York State, the statewide masking requirement for K-12 students and children 2+ in childcare settings will be lifted effective Wednesday, March 2nd. Additionally, masks will no longer be required on school buses. Counties and cities with higher transmission rates will have the authority to require masks in schools. Parents/guardians may still choose to send their children to schools in masks.

“We are very happy that New York State has lifted the mask mandate in schools and childcare settings and that local officials will have the authority to make decisions regarding mask mandates,” stated Lynne M. Johnson, Chairman of the Orleans County Legislature. “We have previously said that Orleans County would not continue that mandate if the decision were left to us. We continue to hold that view and want to be clear that Orleans County will NOT be implementing any local mask mandate for our schools”.

According to the updated metrics released by the CDC regarding community transmission levels, Genesee and Orleans Counties have fallen into the “Medium” category based on the CDC data. “The Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments will not require masks in schools” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments. “Masking will be optional and we will continue to work with school districts in both counties to monitor COVID-19 transmission rates and respond to clusters and other issues that may arise to keep students safe and in school.”

“We encourage residents to make the best choice for their children, themselves, and their personal level of risk as to whether or not they wear masks in public places including schools. We continue to encourage residents to get vaccinated, boosted, and stay up to date on their vaccines,” stated Pettit.

“Some residents will choose to continue to wear masks in public places for their own safety,” stated Rochelle M. Stein, Chairman of the Genesee County Legislature. “We encourage residents to respect others' personal choices and discourage mask shaming in our community. We also encourage our residents to continue focusing on personal good health practices. Masking provides another important layer of protection from COVID-19.”

At this time, masking requirements are still in effect in state-regulated healthcare settings; homeless shelters; state-regulated adult care facilities and nursing homes; correctional facilities; domestic violence centers; buses and bus stations; trains and train stations; subways and subway stations; planes and airports. People who have had symptoms of COVID-19 are still required to wear well-fitted masks in public for five additional days (day 6 through 10) after the end of the 5-day isolation period.

March 1, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, schools, education, COVID-19.


As Genesee County school officials responded to New York State's decision to remove mask mandates in schools, they kept civility central to their messages. Governor Kathy Hochul made the announcement on Sunday that masks would be optional for districts in New York State starting Wednesday. 

Batavia City School District 
City schools Superintendent Jason Smith sent a letter out to district families confirming that Hochul’s weekend announcement means that “every county in New York State will now have control over masking guidelines,” with the qualifier that districts may still require masks if the county’s COVID-19 data supports it. 

“We support this mask optional decision and look forward to a full return to normalcy, and we will continue to advocate local control,” Smith said to The Batavian on Monday. Part of that control includes how students and families react to the actions of others. 

“On Wednesday, March 2, families may still choose to send their children to school in masks and we fully stand behind the governor’s sentiments that masking is a personal choice, and no bullying of any sort will be tolerated,” Smith’s letter stated. “We will continue to provide information in the coming days leading up to Wednesday, March 2 on how the lifted mandate will specifically affect the Batavia City School District.”

Pembroke Central School
Likewise, Pembroke Central School District families also received a letter with an outline of what and will not be acceptable behavior once the mask mandate is gone. Masks will be optional for everyone, and harassment based on wearing or not wearing a mask “will not be tolerated,” Superintendent Matthew Calderon’s letter stated.

“All individuals, whether choosing to wear masks or not wear masks, will be respectful of every individual's right to choose,” Calderon said.

Pavilion Central School
Pavilion Central School families were reminded to follow district expectations to “respect everyone and their choice, be kind and continue to follow other safety protocols to keep our school community healthy,” Superintendent Kate Hoffman said. 

Although an announcement from Hochul was anticipated, it came earlier than expected, Hoffman said in the letter she sent out to district members. The district will also shift to mask-optional starting Wednesday, she said, with the exception of school buses “until we hear differently.”

The district will monitor COVID-19 data and the district will continue its work with Genesee County Department of Health and the school’s medical director, “as has been our practice,” Hoffman said.

She suggested that parents talk to their children about this upcoming change, and understand that many people look forward to going mask-free while others may still want to wear one. Testing will be available with parent consent or request, she said. 

Byron-Bergen Central School
For Byron-Bergen Central School, Superintendent Patrick McGee reiterated why Hochul chose to lift the mandate: strong COVID-19 vaccination rates, falling positivity rates, declining hospitalization rates, and new guidance from the CDC as criteria for this decision.

“We understand that this news will bring relief to some and cause apprehension for others. Our goal during this transition is to create safe spaces for all students and staff members,” McGee said in his district letter. “Thank you in advance for being understanding of the feelings and concerns of others and their personal choice about masking. Whatever choice a student and family makes, our staff will continue to create a welcoming and affirming environment for all.”

Oakfield-Alabama Central School
Oakfield-Alabama’s board had already approved a mask-optional policy during an emergency meeting on Feb. 9. The vote was a precursor to when/if the governor decided to eliminate the mask mandate in schools. Superintendent John Fisgus sent out a letter to the O-A school community Sunday after Hochul’s announcement, and also plans to follow up with staff.

“I am meeting with our District staff over the next 48 hours to provide direction on how to proceed given the absence of this mandate,” Fisgus said.

His letter, sent out on Sunday, asked that “everyone respect the decisions of each individual within our school community.” He also recognized the difficulty of the past two years, given the “ever-changing guidance and restrictions.”

“This time is long overdue,” he said. “Please know that I will be meeting with our faculty and staff over the next two days given this announcement and to ensure our clarity with the new stated mandates.”

Le Roy Central School
Merritt Holly, superintendent of Le Roy Central School, said the district has already spread the word to students, parents, teachers, and staff about masks being optional come Wednesday. A robocall and emails were sent out on Sunday, with expectations that Monday and Tuesday of this week will provide time for parents and teachers to “discuss what is best for their child/student on Wednesday,” Holly said. 

“We will continue to offer daily testing for those that are interested,” he said. “Overall, we are supporting students, teachers, and staff in having a choice in wearing or not wearing a mask now that the mandate has been lifted.”

Elba Central School
In her letter to Elba’s “Lancer family,” Superintendent Gretchen Rosales shared the news of optional masks and urged families “to consult with your family physician to determine what your child’s best health needs may be.”

Elba Central School has a “plentiful supply of masks” for those wanting to continue wearing them, and an “abundance of rapid COVID test” on hand for any family that would like some. Regardless of an individual’s preference, “we will continue to respect the opinions of each other,” Rosales said.

“Our district’s vision of a respectful, safe, and engaging environment will always be paramount,” she said. “Above all, I want to thank all of you for partnering with us as a school district over the past two years. While not every family is at the same level of comfort, nor does each person agree with lifting a mask mandate, our willingness to work together and remain understanding has been a cornerstone of our community.”

Alexander Central School Superintendent Jared Taft did not respond to requests for comment. 

File photo: New Superintendent Jason Smith is shown with Student Co-Mayor Mackenzie Harmon and Batavia High School Principal Paul Kesler during a prior Monday morning announcement at the high school. Masks will now become optional for students and staff as of Wednesday. Photo by Howard Owens.

February 28, 2022 - 6:34pm

Looking at the “community burden” rather than just the number of cases is a key part of the reason for New York State’s shift in COVID-19 masking requirements, according to the public health director for Genesee and Orleans counties.

Paul Pettit, appearing at the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee meeting this afternoon at the Old County Courthouse, updated legislators on some of the factors leading to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s decision to lift the statewide mask requirement in schools starting Wednesday.

“What they did is they started to look at community burden, which looks at not just the number of cases, but now also includes the severity – how it’s impacting our healthcare system and what kind of bed capacity that we have available in the region,” Pettit said. “Those things are now overlaid with the cases, which actually doubled per 100,000; they went from 100,000 to 200,000 for obtaining the high level status.”

He said that the new scenario provides “a better indication of what’s going on with COVID in the community; not just pure numbers.”

Pettit mentioned that the local health department has advocated for months that the state change the metrics by which regions are categorized – and now that has been done as well, moving from low, medium, substantial and high to low, medium and high.

“When they changed this on Friday, they looked at the map and immediately made probably two-thirds of the map go from substantial or high to medium because once you take community burden in place, it puts it at a whole different level,” he said.

Currently, Genesee County is in the medium category, he said, adding that the county’s monitoring of wastewater backs up the extent to which COVID-19 cases are declining.

As far as schools are concerned, Pettit said he has yet to receive official guidance from the state but expects all Genesee County schools to take the optional approach when it comes to wearing masks.

“We’ve been lobbying all year, before school even started, with moving forward with more of a local decision-making choice-based method with this,” he said. “Our schools are positioned – I haven’t talked to them all yet – but the indication is they’re all going to move forward with optional masking starting Wednesday.”

Pettit acknowledged that some students and staff will continue to wear masks.

“That’s their right if they want to do that and it’s their ability to do that,” he said. “We would definitely encourage it if they feel comfortable and they're concerned, that they continue to do that."

He said the health department has masks for all, including smaller ones for the elementary pupils, but, in general, he emphasized that he is happy to see “the shift in all of our schools starting on Wednesday.”

On related topics, Pettit reported:

  • The vaccination rate in Genesee County for those age 5 and older is 66.2 percent for one does and 61.5 percent for the completed series (not including a booster shot). Vaccines continue to be available through the health department and at local pharmacies.
  • There isn’t a strong demand for testing and, in fact, the health department has 15,000 test kits on hand – many coming in now from orders submitted weeks ago.
  • Discussion at the federal level has included development of a vaccine that combines COVID with other viral infections, such as the seasonal flu. Currently, a fourth shot is not being considered.
  • People, including students, who test positive for COVID should stay home for up to five days and wear masks for up to five days after that. Students who ride the bus are exempt from the federal transportation mandate, which means that masks aren’t required unless a student is coming off a positive case.
February 28, 2022 - 5:36pm
posted by Press Release in COVID-19, news, Steve Hawley, 139th assembly district.

Press release:

Throughout the pandemic, Assemblyman Steve Hawley has called for control of public health policy decisions, such as mask mandates, to be left to local governments and local health officials. He has called for the mandate to end in various letters, public events, and media publications.

“The governor’s announcement is a welcome one, though one that’s taken far too long to be made as most states already announced the end of their mask mandates,” said Hawley. “Saying that, I feel the power to implement impactful mandates should not rest with our governor, but with local officials who know their communities better than Gov. Hochul or any state-level bureaucrat. Local decisions are informed decisions, so I will always stand for the right of localities to address the needs of their people as they see fit.”

February 27, 2022 - 10:08pm
posted by Press Release in schools, education, news, COVID-19.

Press release:

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced plans to end the state mask requirement in schools starting on March 2, 2022. The Governor made this decision based on the analysis of several key COVID-19 data trends and after consulting with health and education experts, as well as parents, teachers and school administrators. The announcement also follows recent changes in metrics used by the CDC to determine risk and transmission levels in communities. Other mitigation measures should remain in place.

"With more New Yorkers getting vaccinated, and the steady decline over the past several weeks in cases and hospitalizations from Omicron, we are now entering a new phase of the pandemic. Because New Yorkers have stepped up, we can confidently remove the statewide mask requirement in our schools," Governor Hochul said. "This is a huge step forward for our kids and communities and I am grateful to the students, educators and parents for their dedication to keeping us all safe—we've reached this milestone because of your hard work."  

New York has made significant progress in the fight against COVID-19. Among large states, New York has the highest rate of adults fully vaccinated for COVID-19, the highest rate of teenagers fully vaccinated for COVID-19, and the second-highest rate of children ages 5-11 fully vaccinated. New York State has experienced a 98 percent decline in COVID-19 cases since the Omicron peak, and a continuous downward trend in cases for 51 consecutive days.  

The number of children testing positive for COVID is declining to levels not seen since before students returned from summer break; yesterday 229 cases were reported compared to a 7-day average of 832 cases at the beginning of the school year. Pediatric hospitalizations have declined by roughly 80 percent since the Omicron peak. 

Ahead of Midwinter break, 4.8 million tests were sent to schools for children to take home. An additional 4.8 million tests will be sent this week for students to take home upon their return to school. In total, 20.8 million tests have been distributed to schools. Over the past six weeks, the State established 261 #VaxForKids sites, bringing the vaccine directly to New York families to help parents and guardians get their eligible children vaccinated and boosted.  

State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, "Thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers, today we are able to lift the statewide mask requirement for schools. As Governor Hochul said, we will remain vigilant as New York moves forward, and our team at the Department of Health will continue to monitor the data and advance early warning monitoring systems like wastewater surveillance. We continue to urge all New Yorkers to get vaccinated and get boosted, and we will work with our partners in education statewide to ensure our schools, teachers, and students have the support they need to keep our classrooms healthy and safe." 

State Education Commissioner Dr. Betty A. Rosa said, "I thank the Governor for her leadership. Working together we look forward to keeping our schools safe for students and educators."

Statement from NYSUT:

New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta issued the following statement today regarding the governor’s announcement that the statewide mask requirement for schools is ending:

“We welcome this step toward normalcy. The governor is striking the right balance by empowering local officials to use data to determine if and when the mitigation strategies need to change in their areas. As the guidance changes, one thing must remain constant: It’s essential that districts work closely with educators to ensure there is confidence in their health and safety plans.”

February 24, 2022 - 4:46pm
posted by Press Release in Chris Jacobs, NY-27, news, COVID-19.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) joined numerous House colleagues to call on Speaker Pelosi to allow the immediate consideration of H.J. Res. 67 – A resolution invoking the Congressional Review Act to outlaw the Biden administration’s health care worker vaccine mandate.

“This administration has chosen to violate the freedoms of every American, destroy the livelihoods of hardworking men and women, and harm our critical industries to push their unconstitutional vaccine mandates,” Jacobs said. “No one, especially our heroes in health care who have supported us throughout the pandemic, should be forced to choose between their medical freedom and their ability to support themselves. These mandates are unAmerican, as is forcing anyone out of a job for making a personal medical decision. The Speaker must allow consideration of this resolution immediately to repeal this vaccine mandate.”

Fact Check: Jacobs states that vaccine mandates are unconstitutional.  There is no legal basis for the statement.  Vaccine mandates have been considered constitutional since 1905. See also this article. More recently, the current court upheld the health care worker vaccine mandate at federally funded facilities.


February 23, 2022 - 12:30pm
posted by Press Release in Steve Hawley, news, COVID-19, 139th assembly district.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) is expressing relief following an announcement by the state Department of Health that it will not be enforcing a booster mandate for health care workers as they had planned to do starting Feb. 21.

Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett said in a statement regarding the announcement that “the reality is that not enough health care workers will be boosted by next week's requirement in order to avoid substantial staffing issues in our already overstressed health care system,” echoing a sentiment expressed by Hawley and other members of the Assembly Minority in a letter they wrote last week to her and the governor asking them not to implement the booster mandate.

“The decision to hold back on implementing a booster mandate for health care workers is one that will save lives and finally offers some respect to the heroes in our hospitals and other health centers who’ve worked tirelessly on the front lines of this pandemic for years,” said Hawley. “Mandates of this nature have only served to stifle the ability of our health professionals to care for patients when we need them most. I am hopeful this may be a sign the administration is beginning to learn from the poor decisions they made earlier in the pandemic, which cost us many lives.”

February 21, 2022 - 9:35pm
posted by Press Release in Genesee CARES Business Recovery Fund, news, COVID-19.

Press release:

Genesee County officials will host a pair of informational meetings via Zoom to assist businesses looking to apply to the Genesee CARES Business Recovery Fund.

Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions regarding eligibility, funding, program requirements, COVID impacts, and more.

Through the Genesee CARES Business Recovery Fund, businesses that were negatively impacted by COVID-19 will be eligible to receive a grant of up to $75,000 to aid the recovery of their businesses.  Eligible applicants are for-profit businesses within Genesee County with 25 or fewer employees.

The meetings to be held virtually through Zoom are scheduled for:

Businesses are encouraged to visit www.GeneseeCARES.com to review eligibility and requirements for the grant. A fillable application is available for download at the website.

Subscribe to The Batavian - Local Matters

Copyright © 2008-2022 The Batavian. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service

blue button

News Break