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covid-19

January 13, 2022 - 11:31pm
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Of all the debatable data out there regarding COVID-19, one piece about local hospitalizations is irrefutable, Dan Ireland says.

United Memorial Medical Center’s occupancy rate is at 86 percent, and 100 percent of patients admitted to the Intensive Care Unit have been unvaccinated, said Ireland, Rochester Regional Health/UMMC president, during a live-streamed health discussion Thursday. 

“Seventy-five percent of COVID admissions are unvaccinated people,” he said. “The data is clear, unvaccinated folks are suffering (from COVID symptoms and illness).”

Another statistic to note is that 100 percent of people put on ventilators were also unvaccinated, he said. Though there are various other reasons for someone being admitted to the hospital, 70 percent of them went to the hospital for COVID-19 symptoms and concerns, he said.  It was a set of coronavirus symptoms that drove them to visit the hospital, he said. 

Although some vaccinated people are experiencing break-through cases, the symptoms have not been as severe, he and Genesee and Orleans County Health Director Paul Pettit said. 

“Please, please, please get your vaccine,” Ireland said. 

Not only is that step important for protecting the health of individuals and families, it helps to free up space at the hospital, he said, citing 36 percent of the entire hospital population is attributed to COVID-19. People are still seeking health care treatments for other causes, and it’s “our job to strike that balance” between the needs of those with the COVID virus and more traditional healthcare that is needed.

Those traditional healthcare services remain open at RRH hospitals, which include elective surgeries. Those surgeries held a 90 percent occupancy rate in 
December. Ireland said that, more recently, those surgeries will still occur, but on “a much more limited basis.”

“Surgery is not closed, we’re just limiting it to limit the exposure to patients,” he said. 

The whole region is focused on restricting elective surgeries to essential only, per health department guidelines, he said, however, facilities in nearby counties have taken patients when necessary. 

There will be public announcements to inform the community of changes that may occur, such as particular hospital offices needing to close due to staffing shortages or exposure concerns, and where patients may be able to go instead. Overall, hospital staff “has done an amazing job at accommodating them at other locations,” Ireland said. 

As of Tuesday, a new visitor policy restricts hours for a 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. daily visitor schedule. Everyone will be screened, information is to be captured for potential contact tracing and visitors cannot see patients with COVID-19 or other immunity compromised patients. 

“Just be aware, if you have a loved one in the hospital, if a screener advises you of a new policy, it’s because of updated responses.”

As for those colorful and rhinestone-covered cloth masks, the latest data shows, especially in the light of the recent spread of the SARS-2-CoV variant known as Omicron, that they are not as effective as medical masks. The Hospital administration has issued a “no cloth masks” order in lieu of medical, tighter-fitting masks, such as KN95. Hospital visitors without such masks will be given one by staff, he said.

“It’s very important to protect yourself; wearing that mask is a barrier. Is it full-proof? No. But we do know it’s a barrier (to the virus),” he said. 

Ireland said that, of course, people want to get out and enjoy activities away from their homes. They can do that, but there are tools in place to protect people to have fun “safely and effectively,” he said. 

“Have some self-awareness and some self-driven compliance,” he said of wearing masks, testing when necessary, and isolating and/or quarantining if positive for the virus or exposed to someone else who is positive. Journalists participating in the event asked about the safety of student-athletes, the target number for vaccinations, and the future. 

Student-athletes are being tested based on the same protocols as other students, Pettit said.

New York State set a target vaccination rate of 70 percent, and “we’re above that number now as a whole,” he said. People who are most recently getting the vaccine seem to be doing so based on external events, such as a family member getting sick or dying from COVID-19, or mandates requiring a vaccine for certain types of travel, he said. 

And for those on the fence? His department staff is working to answer questions and provide information to anyone not yet vaccinated. 

“We’re really trying to talk to those folks who are undecided,” he said. ”Based on the data, the vaccine is very effective; it does keep people from having the severity of the disease, and it keeps them out of the ICU and off ventilators. We’re hoping these folks will make the decision at some point in the very near future.”

Genesee County has experienced a “very sharp increase” in positive cases, especially in congregate settings, such as nursing homes, he said. There have been a total of 12,105 positive cases and 164 deaths from the COVID-19 virus since the onset of the pandemic. Out of that number, 1,509 cases were in the month of December compared to 2,118 in just the first 10 days of January, he said. 

He wanted to clarify case investigations, which are conducted for confirmed cases by obtaining the person’s name, address, symptoms, date of onset, close contacts and that person’s history during the prior 48 hours, versus contact tracing, which takes the process “a little bit further” by trying to identify people who were exposed to a confirmed case of the virus and establish if those people are isolating (if found to also be positive) or quarantining due to being exposed to the person found to be positive. 

Case investigations are not changing, he said. However, due to the massive numbers of positive cases multiplied each by an estimated five to 10 exposures, it’s likely the health department may not be able to follow up on all of those cases, he said.

Genesee County Legislator Rochelle Stein reminded folks that everyone can take a part in keeping the community safe.

“Vaccinate and get the booster when you are eligible, she said. “Mask when in public places, test when you feel ill, and then stay home. These are the simple ones today.”

For further information, watch the video and/or go to GOHealthNY.org

Comments
January 13, 2022 - 9:49am
posted by Howard B. Owens in covid-19, coronavirus, live stream, video.
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Genesee County COVID-19 Briefing for Jan. 13, 2022

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January 10, 2022 - 11:59pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, covid-19, coronavirus, health department, Paul Pettit.
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If you have been confused or concerned by the flurry of shifting, revised, questioned and debated pieces of information out there for dealing with COVID-19, one solution is pointing straight at you.

Do your research, talk to your own healthcare provider and self-report when diagnosed with the virus, says Paul Pettit, director of Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments. 

“Any time you have conflicting messages out there it does create confusion … who should they be listening to and why. We want people to be informed. It’s ok for people to question things, we want them to get the most factual information and make a decision based on that. Ultimately, everybody’s individual health care should be discussed with their doctor,” Pettit said during a livestream interview Monday with The Batavian.

Pettit suggests that people check out the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and their own state and county health departments to make informed decisions. He’s not forcing any one answer on people, but asking that they acquire factual knowledge before making decisions about how to deal with COVID-19. 

Omicron, the latest — and apparently greatest variant in terms of infectious ability — may account for 85 to 90 percent of all positive cases in rural areas, Pettit said. There have been some 500 cases diagnosed locally just this past weekend alone, he said. Due to the quickly climbing numbers, the health department is changing the way it has handled contact tracing; it will be more of an individual responsibility for those 19 to 64 years of age, he said.

“It has to do with the extreme spread across the state. We just cannot keep up with the isolation and quarantine,” he said. “We’re trying to triage a response. We can’t get to all these contacts, we’re trying to use our resources the best we can.”

As of Monday, the system will depend on people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have had close contact with someone who already tested positive, to self-report online. Go to www.GOHealthNY.org and choose the red COVID-19 Isolation & Quarantine Information button to be directed to the isolation and quarantine documents. For those who have tested positive for COVID-19, you will be contacted by NYS via email or text. Once you are notified of your positive results by the lab or NYS, immediately self-isolate and notify your close contacts of their potential exposure. For those that test positive in the 19-64 age group, follow the general directions that NYS provides for isolation and quarantine and contact your healthcare provider for medical advice.

For those in schools or congregate settings who are under the age of 18 and over the age of 64, contact tracing will continue as capacity allows, he said. 

Although the omicron variant is highly infectious and has caused breakthrough cases for a lot of vaccinated people, there is an upside, Pettit said. 
“The good news is that it’s not as severe,” he said. 

More cases and less severe does not mean ignoring a diagnosis. People should still heed the five-day isolation rule when their lab result is positive, he said. He has heard from many people that they have symptoms resembling a cold or mild flu, and are also known to the omicron variant: coughing, fatigue, a scratchy throat. He tells them all the same thing.

“The only way to verify (that it’s COVID-19) is to have a test,” he said. “Don’t go to work that day, don’t send your kids to school.”

Genesee County is just under 60 percent for those fully vaccinated, which is “pretty close to our counterparts in the rural region,” he said. The health department is fully stocked with vaccines and booster shots, and people just have to call and make the appointment. A much lower rate of Genesee County residents — 28 percent — have gotten their boosters, which have been shown to be “very effective” at preventing illness and slowing down the potential severity of the virus, he said. 

Interviewer Howard Owens, publisher of The Batavian, shared his own experience after receiving the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine and, a six months afterward, the booster. He had direct exposure to someone who later that day was symptomatic and then diagnosed with COVID-19. Owens quarantined for five days and tested negative with no symptoms. He believes that’s a testament to the protection of the vaccines, he said. 

It’s that kind of personal responsibility that the health department is urging.

“We’re going with more of an honor system. We want people to be responsible, make those decisions and do their part to eliminate Covid within their communities,” Pettit said. “Our data is clearly showing that it prevents severity. With spread so high, we can all do our part. If out in public, put the mask on … more of the well-fitting masks. We’re encouraging people to go out and get their booster shots. Stay home, especially if you’re symptomatic. Hopefully, we’re going to start to see those numbers come down.”

To reiterate Pettit's press release issued last week, if you test positive for COVID-19:

  • Isolate for 5 days, where day 0 is the day of symptom onset or (if asymptomatic) the day of collection of the first positive specimen.
  • If asymptomatic at the end of 5 days or if symptoms are resolving, isolation ends and the individual should wear a well-fitting mask while around others for an additional 5 days.
  • Individuals who are moderately-severely immunocompromised should continue to follow standard (i.e., not shortened) Isolation Guidance.
  • Individuals who are unable to wear a well-fitting mask for 5 days after a 5-day isolation should also follow standard isolation guidance (i.e., 10 days, not shortened)
  • Quarantine (for those who have had close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19)
  • Quarantine as follows, where day 0 is the last date of exposure:
  • If not fully vaccinated or fully vaccinated and eligible for a booster but not yet boosted, quarantine for 5 days and wear a well-fitting mask while around others for an additional 5 days.
  • If fully vaccinated and boosted (with the booster at least 2 weeks before the first date of exposure) or not yet eligible for a booster, no quarantine is required but these individuals should wear a well-fitting mask while around others for 10 days after the last date of exposure.
  • If possible, test at day 5 with either a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT, e.g., PCR) or antigen test.
  • If symptoms appear, quarantine and seek testing. In this situation, quarantine would end when the test is negative. If testing is not done, isolate according to the guidance above.
  • Quarantine orders and releases are also included on the GOHealthNY.org website for you to complete and provide to your employer/school.

For COVID-19 data please visit the NYS site: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-data-new-york.





 

Comments
January 10, 2022 - 3:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in covid-19, coronavirus, news, live stream.
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Comments
January 8, 2022 - 8:00am

Although the year is new, an old acquaintance is tagging along and costing Batavia City School District more money to deal with its effects. 

Yes, COVID-19 is on next week’s Board of Education meeting agenda. The board is expected to review a bid from Enviro-Mist for portable medical-grade airborne disinfection control devices. According to the company’s website, Enviro-Mist is “a high-level disinfecting and sterilizing firm recognized as a leader in our industry.”

The meeting is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday in Batavia High School’s library, 260 State St.

Other financial business includes a vote to approve $8,500 to Campus Construction Management for construction management services and $43,000 to SEI Design Group Architect Services, both related to the emergency repair of the BHS roof. Estimated winds of up to 76 miles per hour damaged the roof on Dec. 11, 2021, and the board is being asked to approve a two-phase repair of $28,000 and $15,000.

Other votes include:

  • A Memorandum of Understanding with each business administrator, executive director of staff development and operations, executive director of curriculum and instruction; the Batavia Teachers’ Association for a Schedule D stipend; and Genesee Community College for the TRIO Upward Bound College Preparation Program.
  • To accept a bid of $94,400 from Kircher Construction Inc. for the window repair and replacement at BHS as part of a 2021-22 capital outlay project.

The agenda also includes time for the public to be heard (sign up before the meeting), and presentations from John Kennedy School Principal Brian Sutton; Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics Mike Bromley and Batavia Middle School physical education teacher James Patric; Business Administrator Scott Rozanski; and new Superintendent Jason Smith. 

Board meetings are typically on the third Thursday of every month, however, scheduling conflicts caused a shift for the board and district staff to meet on Tuesday. Meetings will resume the regular Thursday schedule in February, District Clerk Brittany Witkop said. 

Every meeting is live-streamed via YouTube at:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8JI99xyBJt1sG  

Comments
January 7, 2022 - 5:58pm
posted by Press Release in UMMC, covid-19, coronavirus, news.

Press release:

Rochester Regional Health is reinstating an enhanced hospital visitation policy, effective Tuesday, January 11, 2022. Also, going into effect that day is a new masking policy for visitors. With the rapid transmission of the omicron variant and the dramatic rise of COVID-19 cases, which have led to increased patient volumes, Rochester Regional is implementing enhanced visitor restrictions as they have proven effective during previous COVID surges.  

Vaccinations, including booster shots, proper masking, and social distancing are our community’s best hope to limit the spread of COVID-19 and reopen visitation. Please visit rochesterregional.org for additional visitor restriction details.

Rochester Regional Health Visitation Policy Beginning January 11

No visitation allowed

  • Patients on Enhanced Isolation Precautions (for COVID-19)
  • Emergency department patients
  • Cancer infusion center patients
  • Only exceptions: pediatric patients, labor and delivery patients, patients with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, and cognitive impairments including dementia and patients at the end-of-life (outlined below)

Hospital Visitation Policy

  • Patients may designate two visitors throughout the patient’s stay.
  • Only one visitor is allowed at a time at the bedside for no more than four hours daily.
  • Visitors must be 12 years of age or older.
  • Pediatrics
    • The patient or family/caregiver may designate two support people
    • Only ONE support person may be present on-site at a time in the emergency room or during hospitalization. 
  • Labor and Delivery (Obstetrics)
    • Prior to admission, in labor and delivery triage, ONE visitor/support person, PLUS a certified doula, are allowed. 
    • Patients may have TWO designated adult support people AND a certified doula to be present at the bedside upon admission, throughout labor, delivery and recovery.
    • During postpartum, the couplet may also have a certified doula AND TWO designated adult support people to be present at the bedside.
  • Patients with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, and cognitive impairments including dementia
    • ONE support person may be present on-site at a time in the emergency room or during hospitalization.
    • An additional visitor may also be with the patient and stay for up to four hours per visit during normal visiting hours once the patient is admitted to a room. 
  • End of life patients

o   Patient and/or family/caregiver may designate TWO visitors at a time at the bedside Minor age visitors must be accompanied by an adult.

o   Clergy visiting at the end of life are not counted as one of the two visitors at the bedside.

o   End-of-life determinations are made in coordination with the patient, family/legal guardian, and treatment team. Visitation for end-of-life situations is not restricted by COVID-19 status or hours. All infection control guidelines and instructions must be followed.

  • Patients undergoing ambulatory procedures or surgeries
    • One visitor only for pre-procedure (surgery) and post-procedure (surgery).
    • The visitor must remain masked at all times and must maintain social distancing and hand hygiene as outlined in this policy.
    • Pediatric patients may have two visitors.
  • Behavioral Health Inpatients
    • Two visitors during site-specific hours.

Rochester Regional Health Visitor Mask and Check-In Policy

Masking

  • Cloth masks are not acceptable at this time. Patients and visitors must wear a medical mask upon arrival. The hospital will provide a medical mask to those who need one.

Check-In/Out

  • Visitors are asked to stop at a screening point upon entry of visitation to have their temperature taken.
  • Visitors are asked to stop at a screening point upon completion of the visitation to “check out” with the screener.

Visitation Hours (No change)

o   Rochester General Hospital: 9:00AM – 1:00PM, 4:00PM – 8:00PM

o   Unity Hospital: 9:00AM – 1:00PM, 4:00PM – 8:00PM

o   Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic:  12:00PM – 8:00PM 

o   Newark-Wayne Community Hospital: 12:00PM – 8:00PM 

o   United Memorial Medical Center: 9:00AM – 1:00PM, 3:00PM – 7:00PM  

o   Behavioral Health Facilities: call specific site for hours

Comments
January 7, 2022 - 5:52pm
posted by Press Release in covid-19, kathy hochul, coronavirus.

Press release:

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced new guidance recommending booster doses for all New Yorkers ages 12 and older. The guidance, following action by the CDC, recommends that people, including the newly authorized 12-15-year-old age group, who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine should receive a booster dose at least five months after their second dose; the previously recommended interval was at least six months. In addition, moderately to severely immunocompromised 5-11-year-olds can receive an additional primary dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine 28 days after their second dose. At this time, only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized and recommended for children ages 5-11.    

Additionally, the CDC today recommended the same change to a five-month booster interval for the Moderna vaccine, which is only authorized for people 18 years and older.

"As we continue to battle this winter surge, I strongly recommend that all New Yorkers ages 12 and older get boosted as soon they are eligible," Governor Hochul said. "With boosters now available for all adolescents, I especially urge parents and guardians to get their children in this age group a booster dose as soon as eligible. A booster dose will provide greater protection against severe outcomes from COVID-19 and help keep our kids healthy, protected, and safe."  

Governor Hochul additionally announced her plan to require that all covered health care workers previously required to receive a COVID-19 vaccination under the Department's August 26th Emergency regulation must also now receive a COVID-19 booster dose within two weeks of becoming eligible, absent a valid medical exemption. Consistent with the August 26th Emergency Regulation, there is no test-out option. Following review and approval by the Public Health and HealthPlanning Council at their emergency meeting on Tuesday, the emergency regulation will be filed with the Department of State (DOS). Regulations are effective upon the filing with DOS. 

The Governor also announced new rules for nursing home visitations. Starting Wednesday, all visitors must wear "surgical"-type masks and must present upon entry a COVID negative test taken within 24 hours of their visit. Governor Hochul further noted that 952,000 tests and 1.2 million masks are being delivered to nursing homes late this week into next. 

On January 5, 2022, the CDC endorsed the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice's (ACIP) recommended expansion of booster dose eligibility for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 to individuals ages 12 through 15. CDC now recommends that all adolescents ages 12 through 17 should receive a booster dose five months after their initial Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination series. This followed the CDC's updated recommendations that severely immunocompromised 5-11 year-olds receive an additional primary dose of vaccine 28 days after their second dose, and that people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine series should get a booster dose at least five months after the second dose, instead of six months.   

New York State Department of Health Acting Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, "Booster doses are a critical tool in our continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I am grateful that they are now available for all New Yorkers 12 years of age and older. Data show that people who are vaccinated and boosted are more protected against serious illness from COVID-19, and we continue to urge all those eligible to act now. Do what you can to stay healthy and out of the hospital by getting vaccinated and boosted and wearing a mask. If you have questions, talk to your health care provider or vaccine administrator."  

All state mass vaccination sites are now offering Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine booster doses for New Yorkers 12 years of age and older, as well as third doses for immunocompromised people 5 years and older. For more information on boosters and additional doses, see the State's dedicated page here.  

Comments
January 5, 2022 - 10:36am
posted by Press Release in covid-19, coronavirus, news, VA Hospital.

Press release:

The following guidance is for visitation at Veteran Affairs Western New York Healthcare System (VAWNYHS) Buffalo and Batavia Campuses effective January 4, 2022, and will remain in place until further notice. 

Due to the surge in COVID-19 infection rates throughout Western New York, VA Western New York Healthcare System has suspended physical inpatient visitation at our Buffalo VA Medical Center site.

VA Community Living Center resident visitation with family members at our Batavia VA Medical Center site will be limited through glass partitions.

Buffalo Campus visitation exceptions (on case by case basis):

  • Hospice/Palliative Care/End of Life requires approval of medical care team and Medical Center Director or Chief of Staff
  • Outpatient Services – Essential Visitor: Scheduled Outpatient Appointments
    • The purpose of this visitor is determined on a case by case basis by the care team and is absolutely essential and critical to the care and needs of the Veteran (example – a Veteran in need of escort to

accompany to an appointment when Veteran is unable to safely navigate to the appointment and/or for a Veteran who is unable to comprehend specific teaching instructions, or is unable to perform

a skill that is critical to the Veterans care including wound care, Foley Care, etc.).

All visitors will be expected to follow this guidance:

  • Upon arrival of the visitor to the screening station, the visitor will be screened (including temperature taken as part of screening process) and will not be granted access if exhibiting signs of COVID-19 or any

illness including a temperature of 100.0 degrees or greater or exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 person(s). 

  • Wear a VA provided face covering mask (neck gators, bandanas, face shields are not an appropriate form of a face covering) while in the facility. If visitor does not have a mask, one will be provided.
  • Perform hand-hygiene when entering facility and before and after visiting a hospitalized Veteran as instructed by staff.
  • Refrain from eating or drinking while visiting a hospitalized patient.
  • To exit the facility immediately following the visitation.
Comments
December 30, 2021 - 8:02pm

Press Release:

As 2021 comes to an end, the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health) want to wish you a healthy and Happy New Year! 2021 was a very busy year for the Health Department and a majority of staff efforts were focused on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, staff have also been working hard to ensure conditions in the community promote optimal health for the residents we serve. The Community Health Services staff have been working diligently at COVID- 19 testing and vaccination clinics, conducting COVID-19 case investigations and gathering/analyzing local COVID-19 data. In addition, staff have been educating on lead poisoning, investigating disease/foodborne illness outbreaks, providing guidance to pregnant moms and families with new babies as well as providing migrant health outreach to assist farm workers in both counties. Staff of the Public Health Emergency Preparedness team have been instrumental in planning, organizing and implementing the mass testing and vaccination clinics that occurred throughout the first six months of 2021. In the last six months, staff have been administering smaller testing and vaccination clinics that have been held weekly at the respective health departments. The Environmental Health Team members have been active in assisting with COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinics, but also assuring the community is safe from foodborne illnesses by conducting food inspections and issuing health permits to temporary food service establishments. Staff have also been inspecting septic systems, enforcing the NYS Clean Indoor Air Act, and offering free rabies clinics in both counties. The Lead Program continues to promote education and outreach to enhance lead poisoning prevention and promote testing of children to determine potential lead exposure. Through a federal The Genesee Orleans County Health Departments (GCHD/OCHD) uses 4 types of documents to provide important information to medical and public health professionals, and to other interested persons. Health Alerts convey information of the highest level of importance which warrants immediate action or attention from New York health providers, emergency responders, public health agencies, and/or the public. Health Advisories provide important information for a specific incident or situation, including that impacting neighboring states; may not require immediate action. Health Guidance contain comprehensive information pertaining to a particular disease or condition, and include recommendations, guidelines, etc. endorsed by GCHD/OCHD. Health Updates provide new or updated information on an incident or situation; can also provide information to update a previously sent Health Alert, Health Advisory, or Health Guidance; unlikely to require immediate action.
 

“Healthy People in a Healthy Community” grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), GO Health addresses lead-based paint hazards and other housing issues by funding health-related home repairs, maintenance, and upgrades to eligible homeowners and landlords. In October, GO Health was awarded a five-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to expand the primary prevention of childhood lead poisoning to the entire GLOW region. Staff within our Children’s Programs spent the first half of 2021 assisting with COVID-19 contact tracing and vaccination clinics. In the second half of the year, Service Coordinators have been instrumental in assisting parents and caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. They provided education, case management, support and referrals to help children succeed and have a good quality of life. The Public Health Education team have worked diligently to provide up-to-date data and information related to COVID-19 to the community through press briefings, press releases, social media and website updates. GO Health launched their joint website this past spring, which is a centralized location for residents of Genesee and Orleans Counties to access forms and find resources. Weights & Measures (W&M) completed 345 inspections accounting for over 1,160 devices within the two counties. These tests involved pumping more than 21,000 gallons of fuel and using more than 5 million pounds of test weight ensuring all commercial weighing and measuring devices meet NYS standards. The department collected 132 fuel samples confirming fuel sold within both counties meet a variety of parameters. In the last two years, the W&M program has shown a savings in excess of $100,000.00 through GO Health shared services. In 2022, Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming Counties will be developing the new 2022-2024 tri-county Community Health Assessment (CHA)/Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) and in partnership with local hospital systems, Community Services Plan. We will be looking for community members in all three counties to assist in the process by participating in community conversations and taking the Community Health Assessment survey. We are also looking forward to completing the Public Health Accreditation Process in November of 2022. “It is our pleasure to serve the residents of Genesee and Orleans Counties,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments. “We thank you for the opportunity and look forward to a productive 2022. We wish everyone a safe, healthy and happy New Year.”

For information about GO Health, visit GOHealthny.org . For the Genesee County Health
Department, call 585-344-2580 ext. 5555 and for the Orleans County Health Department, call
585-589-3278.

Comments
December 29, 2021 - 5:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in covid-19, coronavirus, news, batavia.

img_0359masks.jpg

Gary Patnode, a coordinator with the Emergency Management Office, hands out N-95 masks at a distribution location on Alva Place this afternoon.  Patnode said that as of 4 p.m., the county had distributed more than 3,000 masks, two to a person or four to a household.  The mask distribution is continuing until 6 p.m.

img_0356masks.jpg

Comments
December 28, 2021 - 3:47pm
posted by Press Release in covid-19, news, genesee county, health.

Press Release:

Genesee County is set to host a free KN95 mask distribution on Wednesday, December 29 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Alva Place parking lot, located on the corner of Alva Place and Bank Street in Batavia.  Additional KN95 masks will be available to the public during normal business hours at the Genesee County Clerk’s Office in County Building 1 at 15 Main St, Batavia, and the Genesee County Department of Social Services at 5130 East Main St, Batavia, while supplies last.  The free masks are provided by New York State.  

“We appreciate New York State stepping up to help us prevent the spread of COVID 19 and in particular the highly contagious Omicron variant by providing these highly effective masks,” said Genesee County Legislature Chair Shelley Stein.  “This will go a long way to helping our businesses, especially our retail businesses stay open, over the next several days as we welcome in the New Year.”

Residents can also sign up an upcoming COVID-19 vaccination clinic to receive their first dose, booster shot, or a pediatric dose for children age 5-11 here.

Comments
December 23, 2021 - 11:46am
posted by Press Release in covid-19, coronavirus, news, Charles Schumer.

Press release:

With COVID’s Omicron variant spreading and Upstate New York overwhelmed by the latest surge, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer launched a major push to get the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to expand testing capacity and support for Upstate communities.  Schumer made a personal call to FEMA Assistant Administrator Keith Turi and Acting FEMA Region 2 Administrator Chad Gorman to urge them to deploy 200 mobile testing sites in New York, 100 across New York State and an additional 100 in New York City. Schumer said that expanding access to testing is key to stopping the spread of COVID-19, especially as we enter the peak of holiday travel and the heart of the harsh winter months.

“Upstate New York is seeing record high COVID cases, and with variants like Omicron already here, we must stop the spread in its tracks and that means testing testing testing. That is why I am calling on FEMA to immediately deploy mobile testing sites across Upstate New York, to give struggling communities the support they need to keep their residents safe,” said Senator Schumer. “Especially as people travel over the winter holidays, easy access to testing is critical to ensure the safety of themselves and loved ones. FEMA must provide Upstate communities the support they need to protect public health and to stay ahead of this variant into the winter.”

New York State yesterday saw a record over 28,000 new coronavirus infections over a 24-hour period, signifying a significant increase in case counts from just a week ago.

Schumer’s request comes on the heels of his successful push for the federal government to provide free at-home tests to New York community health centers & mobile sites. President Biden announced earlier this week that the federal government would deliver 500 million free at-home rapid testing starting in January. Schumer said that these at home testing kits in tandem with 200 mobile testing sites in the communities that need them most is vital to protecting the health of New Yorkers.

“We now have the testing infrastructure and tools we didn’t have early on in the pandemic,” said Schumer. “It’s one of the keys to stop this surge and keep recovery going.”

According to the World Health Organization, the most effective steps individuals can take to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus is to keep a physical distance of at least 6-feet; wear a well-fitting mask; open windows to improve ventilation; avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces; keep hands clean; cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or tissue; and get vaccinated.

Comments
December 22, 2021 - 1:32pm
posted by Press Release in covid-19, coronavirus, news.

Press release:

The Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health) are pleased to announce that we will now be able to accept at-home COVID-19 tests.  “We have developed an online form for residents to report a positive test result after taking an at-home COVID-19 test,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for GO Health.

Positive test results are to be reported to the Health Department within 24 hours of completing the at-home test. Individuals can visit the GO Health website COVID-19 Testing page under Emerging Issues (GOHealthNY.org) and choose the appropriate Home Test button for their respective county. Individuals should complete the at-home tests according to the directions provided. When the test is completed, individuals should take a picture with the individual’s name, the date and the time they took the test legibly written on the test within 15 minutes of reading the results. Towards the end of the online form, the individual will be required to upload the picture on the website and attest to the authenticity and truth of the form.  If there are any missing sections that are required, the form is invalid.  At this time, individuals do not need to report negative at-home test results.

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is to self-isolate for at least 10 days. A Case Investigator will contact the individual to determine any potential contacts, check on the individual’s health and provide guidance on their isolation.  Please answer the phone and be able to provide information regarding potential contacts when called. Also note, depending on our case load, it may be a day or two before you are called.  It is important to continue with self-isolation from household members as much as you are able.  If you must share space, make sure all in contact with you are wearing masks covering their nose and mouth and frequently shared items/surfaces are sanitized often.

Please note home testing may not be accepted for travel or events.  Check with your travel / event planner for what is acceptable.  For information on COVID-19 testing, visit https://gohealthny.org/covid-19-testing-information/ or https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/find-test-site-near-you

Comments
December 22, 2021 - 12:34pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county, Gov. Kathy Hochul, covid-19.

Genesee County is expected to receive up to $1 million to help in its COVID-19 prevention efforts as well as around 3,000 in-home test kits over the next few weeks, County Manager Matt Landers said in response to an email from The Batavian today.

“Based on information from the press release (from Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office) yesterday, Genesee County is in line to be reimbursed for up to $1 million in costs,” Landers said.

The money is earmarked for local health departments for vaccine and testing sites, staffing, and personnel expenses related to media campaigns, supply distribution and enforcement of mask/vaccine mandates.

Landers said he doesn’t see the additional funding having a signficiant impact upon the county’s ability – or willingness – to enforce Hochul’s rule requiring those over the age of 2 to wear masks or show proof of vaccination when entering businesses.

“We are still waiting on more guidance on what the money can be used for, but based on the short window to spend this money, it does not appear that Genesee County will have any greater ability to enforce the state’s mask rule,” Landers advised. “More than likely, we will use some of this money to promote our residents to get vaccinated or boosted, testing clinics and vaccination/booster clinics.

“Genesee County believes that masking in public settings does offer greater protection against the spread of COVID-19, and encourages businesses and residents to take appropriate precautions during this holiday season.”

Landers reported that he was just notified that more test kits (likely in early January) and masks (on Thursday) will be coming to Genesee County.

“Our Emergency Management Office is coordinating the distribution efforts for both and we will have details in the days following. We haven’t received word on the exact distribution numbers yet, but we are anticipating around 3,000 take-home test kits to be distributed to the public in early January,” he said.

The county manager said he “appreciates” the open communication line with the governor’s office and the distribution of supplies to rural counties such as Genesee.

According to Hochul’s press release, the state is prepared to release $65 million to New York’s 62 counties to help enforce the most recent mandates, which was announced two weeks ago and expires on Jan. 15.

The governor said she is opposed to more school or business shutdowns to the coronavirus “because we have the tools available to all of us (and) we’re going to keep fighting back.”

Comments
December 20, 2021 - 6:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in covid-19, coronavirus, news, notify.

There are currently 35 Genesee County residents hospitalized with COVID-19, according to Health Department data released today.

The county also reports 209 positive COVID-19 tests since Dec. 16.

There are currently 275 known active cases in Genesee County.

Of the previously reported positive cases, 150 people have completed their mandatory isolation.

Comments
December 15, 2021 - 5:44pm

The Genesee County Legislature, in a special Committee of the Whole meeting minutes ago, approved a contract with Common Ground Health of Rochester to join forces with Causewave Community Partners, also of Rochester, to conduct a regional marketing and outreach campaign promoting the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Genesee County's cost of the $150,000 initiative, which will focus on the rural counties of the Finger Lakes Region, is $15,171.10 -- using federal grant money.

"We believe this is a small investment of federal dollars to go toward outreach efforts to educate the hard-to-reach people and the vaccine hesitant," County Manager Matt Landers said. "The campaign is not designed to sway people who have already made up their minds concerning vaccination."

The resolution states that the proposed marketing and outreach strategy will consist of purchased advertising in a number of local and regional outlets, earned media, and targeted direct mailings to particular populations within the region.

It also indicates that public health directors and county leaders see a "pressing need to undertake the campaign to increase vaccine uptake rates and to try to slow the increase of cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19."

Landers said wording in the contract includes the opportunity for the county to be reimbursed should the agreement be terminated before all services are rendered.

 

Comments
December 13, 2021 - 2:19pm
posted by Press Release in covid-19, coronavirus, news, kathy hochul.

Press release:

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that the mask protocol for all indoor public places announced Friday is now in effect, as well as a new Frequently Asked Questions resource for business owners and the general public.

Masks are now required to be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. As noted on the Frequently Asked Questions webpage, an indoor public place is defined as any indoor space that is not a private residence -- businesses and venues New Yorkers frequent that are publicly owned or owned by private business. These entities include indoor entertainment venues, concert halls, indoor sports stadiums, recreational spaces, restaurants, office buildings, shopping centers, grocery stores, pharmacies, houses of worship and common areas in residential buildings. Posters encouraging people to wear masks and get vaccinated are available for businesses to use here and here.

"As Governor, my top priority is to protect the health of New Yorkers and the health of our economy, and these temporary measures will help us get through the holiday season safely," Governor Hochul said. "I share everyone's frustration that we have gotten to this point, especially with the vaccine at our disposal. I want to thank the millions of New Yorkers who have done the right thing to get fully vaccinated. We are all in this together and if others will follow suit, these measures will no longer be necessary."   

This major action to address the winter surge and concern over upcoming holiday gatherings comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise statewide to be in alignment with the CDC's recommendations for communities with substantial and high transmission. The State Health Commissioner issued a determination solidifying the requirement. 

This measure is effective until Jan. 15, 2022, after which the State will re-evaluate based on current conditions, and brings added layers of mitigation during the holiday season when more time is spent indoors shopping, gathering and visiting holiday-themed destinations.     

Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, "Taking this action now is critical to slowing the COVID-19 winter surge during the holidays. Each of you can contribute: get vaccinated, get boosted if you are already vaccinated and wear a mask. We urge the public to support these new requirements in indoor public places by cooperating with the venues. We need everyone to do their part to get through this together."

For information how businesses and venues can implement a proof of vaccination requirement or a mask wearing requirement, see the Frequently Asked Questions here.

COVID-19 vaccines and booster doses are free and widely available statewide. New Yorkers can visit vaccines.gov, text their ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find nearby locations. To schedule an appointment at a state-run mass vaccination site, New Yorkers can visit the Am-I-Eligible site. New Yorkers can also contact their health care provider, county health departments, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), rural health centers, or pharmacies. 

New Yorkers can retrieve their Excelsior Pass or Excelsior Pass Plus here. Businesses and venues can download the Excelsior Pass Scanner app—free for any business nationwide and available in more than ten languages—here

Comments
December 10, 2021 - 4:05pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, UMMC, covid-19, coronavirus, batavia, notify.

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Perspective is everything, so the saying goes.

And for one nurse practitioner at Batavia’s United Memorial Medical Center, it’s been a lesson worth remembering from this past year of all things COVID-19.

“I didn’t expect to lose so many people in a year. The wins are great; it’s so awesome to take a breathing tube out and hear them saying good morning to you,” Marie Campbell said during an interview with The Batavian.

“I was hoping for more wins than losses … it’s one hour, one day, one minute at a time.”

Campbell, originally from Connecticut and a current resident of Akron, first joined the Air  Force on her way to a medical career path. It was while stationed In Texas that she met her future husband Bill. They moved to his hometown of Akron and had three boys, James, now 7, Alexander, 4, and 18-month-old Malcolm. Mrs. Campbell wanted to find a job that was “exciting and interesting,” she said, and opted to attend D’Youville College and University at Buffalo, eventually completing her Doctor of Nursing Practice.

Once done with the educational portion of learning, Mrs. Campbell landed a job in the neurological Intensive Care Unit at Buffalo General, and then in the ICU at UMMC a year ago Nov. 30. To bump up the stress another notch, she was pregnant during those first tenuous months of the pandemic, giving birth to Malcolm in May 2020.

Mrs. Campbell was shielded from COVID-19 patients initially, she said, until after she gave birth. When she first came onto the ICU floor, it was a safety protocol all the way, she said: Here’s your N95 mask, gloves, gown, and special headgear. 

“It’s scary,” Mrs. Campbell said. “I’m changing my clothes in the garage and I don’t go into the house … it’s really tough when three kids want to tell me about their day.”

She has emphasized that they’re not to touch her until she has changed and cleansed thoroughly. It has become a habit for them to ask “can I touch you?” and the cautious mom has had to say “no” all too often, she said.

As a nurse practitioner, she deals a lot with the families of patients, explaining what’s going on and what the medical treatment plan entails. Patients with COVID-19 could not have visitors whereas those with illnesses other than the virus could. 

“Most of the interactions with families were on the phone,” she said. “COVID patients don’t get visitors unless they’re end of life. I’ve lost track of all the patients we’ve lost over the last year; I’ve stopped counting.”

One of the most difficult talks she has with patients is that they need a breathing tube and be intubated. “That terrifies people,” she said, “and family members are terrified.”

“In people’s mind, if you put a person on a breathing tube, they won’t survive,” she said.

Although that’s not true, it’s what many people have come to believe about having that tube down their throat, she said. Those with COVID-19 are more often than not unvaccinated and in their 50s and 60s, she said. Their reasons for not getting the shot vary, from their belief it is not safe and decisions to wait awhile longer to see more results, to not thinking the virus is a real threat, she said.

“Being vaccinated makes a difference; it does not mean you’re 100 percent safe, but it does make a huge difference in going into the ICU,” she said. “A large percentage of those not vaccinated … end up getting really sick.”

Her job also includes performing intubations, putting in central lines (which are larger IVs), and reviewing patient charts and lab results. The challenges of a pandemic and constant loss of life have been outweighed by the less intrusive rewards.

“As hard as it was, it was the right decision for me,” she said, highlighting a perk of her job. “The feeling I can make a difference in someone’s life. Often they’re very, very sick, and I can talk to their families. Being able to talk to them, explain things to them … giving them comfort in knowing we’re doing everything we can.”

Her schedule puts the mom of three at work seven days at a time, followed by seven days off. Her days typically begin with waking up the kids and spending some precious time with them before taking care of urgent matters at the hospital, she said.

Despite their tender ages, her children seem to be quite aware of COVID-19 and what it means. She laughed when describing a time she was carrying her 18-month-old son into a medical office, and he reached over to grab some hand sanitizer. 

There are also those sad times, she said. The 35-year-old has been surprised, given she’s in a “small community hospital,” to see the number of sick people coming through the door. Her husband contracted COVID-19 before the vaccine was available to him, and he has since gotten it. The couple is thankful he did not suffer the serious side effects known to so many. Those others have not been as fortunate, she said.

“There are multiple people who wished they had gotten vaccinated, and they passed away,” she said, sharing a piece of advice she’s had to embrace. “When you leave work, you just have to leave it at work. My focus is being at home, enjoying my family.” 

One such patient — a gentleman who had gotten the virus at a wedding — came to her mind. His last words were that “I never should’ve gone to that f- - - ing wedding.” He then died.

It hasn’t all been so bleak, though, Mrs. Campbell said. Many younger patients have gone on to do “really well” and get discharged, even after being on a ventilator. 

“It does happen; the tube is removed and they go home,” she said. “And those are always the best ones.”

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Top photo: Marie Campbell, a nurse practitioner at UMMC in Batavia, enjoys time spent with her family, including son Malcolm, 18 months. Sons James, 7, and 4-year-old Alexander also look forward to being with mom, who works with a patient on the Intensive Care Unit floor at UMMC, and dad, Marie's husband Bill, above. 

Comments
December 10, 2021 - 10:10am
posted by Press Release in covid-19, coronavirus, news.

Press release:

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. This a major action to address the winter surge comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise statewide to be in alignment with the CDC's recommendations for communities with substantial and high transmission. The State Health Commissioner issued a determination solidifying the requirement.    

This determination is based on the State's weekly seven-day case rate as well as increasing hospitalizations. The new business and venue requirements extend to both patrons and staff. This measure is effective Dec. 13, 2021 until Jan. 15, 2022, after which the State will re-evaluate based on current conditions. The new measure brings added layers of mitigation during the holidays when more time is spent indoors shopping, gathering, and visiting holiday-themed destinations.     

"As Governor, my two top priorities are to protect the health of New Yorkers and to protect the health of our economy. The temporary measures I am taking today will help accomplish this through the holiday season. We shouldn't have reached the point where we are confronted with a winter surge, especially with the vaccine at our disposal, and I share many New Yorkers' frustration that we are not past this pandemic yet," Governor Hochul said. "I want to thank the more than 80 percent of New Yorkers who have done the right thing to get fully vaccinated. If others will follow suit, these measures will no longer be necessary."   

"I have warned for weeks that additional steps could be necessary, and now we are at that point based upon three metrics: Increasing cases, reduced hospital capacity, and insufficient vaccination rates in certain areas," Governor Hochul added. 

Since Thanksgiving, the statewide seven-day average case rate has increased by 43% and hospitalizations have increased by 29%. While the percentage of New Yorkers fully vaccinated continues to increase—gaining 2% from Thanksgiving weekend to now—the uptick is not fast enough to completely curb the spread of the virus, particularly among communities with low vaccination coverage.

The State Department of Health has produced nation-leading studies, published in the CDC's MMWR and the New England Journal of Medicine, which demonstrate the COVID-19 vaccines' effectiveness - particularly in preventing severe disease. The Department continues to urge eligible New Yorkers of all ages to get fully vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible.

Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, "Community spread requires a community-minded solution, as the Omicron variant emerges and the overwhelmingly dominant Delta variant continues to circulate. We have the tools we need to protect against the virus - and now we must ensure we use them. There are tools each individual can use, and there are actions we can take as a government. Getting vaccinated protects you, and wearing a mask is how we will better protect each other. Both vaccination and mask-wearing are needed to slow this COVID-19 winter surge."    

A violation of any provision of this measure is subject to all civil and criminal penalties, including a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation. Local health departments are being asked to enforce these requirements.        

Business/Venue Proof of Full-Course Vaccination Requirement    

Businesses and venues that implement a proof of vaccination requirement can accept Excelsior Pass, Excelsior Pass Plus, SMART Health Cards issued outside of New York State, or a CDC Vaccination Card. In accordance with CDC's definition of fully vaccinated, full-course vaccination is defined as 14 days past an individual's last vaccination dose in their initial vaccine series (14 days past the second shot of a two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine; 14 days past the one-shot Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine). The State also accepts WHO-approved vaccines for these purposes. Parents and guardians can retrieve and store an Excelsior Pass and/or Excelsior Pass Plus for children or minors under legal guardianship.    

Business/Venue Mask-Wearing Requirement    

Businesses and venues that implement a mask requirement must ensure all patrons two years and older wear a mask at all times while indoors.    

Continued Masking Requirements    

Unvaccinated individuals continue to be responsible for wearing masks, in accordance with federal CDC guidance. Further, the State's masking requirements continue to be in effect for pre-K to grade 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and health care settings per CDC guidelines.    

New York State and the State's Department of Health continue to strongly recommend mask-wearing in all public indoor settings as an added layer of protection, even when not required. Children 2 - 5 who remain ineligible for vaccination must wear a proper-fitting mask.

COVID-19 vaccines and booster doses are free and widely available statewide. New Yorkers can visit vaccines.gov, text their ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find nearby locations. To schedule an appointment at a state-run mass vaccination site, New Yorkers can visit the Am-I-Eligible site. New Yorkers can also contact their health care provider, county health departments, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), rural health centers, or pharmacies.

New Yorkers can retrieve their Excelsior Pass or Excelsior Pass Plus here. Businesses and venues can download the Excelsior Pass Scanner app—free for any business nationwide and available in more than ten languages—here.      

Comments
December 9, 2021 - 12:32pm

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 …”

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