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February 17, 2022 - 12:43pm
posted by Press Release in COVID-19, news, business.

Press release:

Genesee County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein announced today that Genesee County is launching a $1 million Community Development Block Grant to help businesses impacted by the pandemic.

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.

“Despite so many of our businesses being dramatically impacted by the pandemic they have demonstrated perseverance and determination to keep their doors open and we are proud of them,” said Chair Stein.  “That is why we are so excited that our application for CDBG funding was approved as it will be a big shot in the arm to our business community as we continue our economic turnaround.”

There are four general categories of eligibility, including:

  • Employment restoration/job hiring incentive: Businesses will be eligible to receive a grant totaling $20,000 toward expected annual wages for up to 3 new hires to a maximum of $60,000.
  • Outdoor dining development grants of up to $50,000 to enhance outdoor dining (e.g. furniture, fixtures, equipment, and working capital expenses related to expanding, installing, or improving outdoor dining and gathering spaces.) Construction or renovation costs are not eligible.
  • A maximum of $50,000 of grant funds to be used to assist with working capital expenses for businesses that can demonstrate the impact of COVID has put a strain on their cash flow.
  • Business resiliency grants of up to $25,000 to support small business efforts to respond to the pandemic for projects such as developing safety and resiliency plans, purchasing PPE, installing touchless point-of-sale systems, and other improvements.

Businesses can apply across multiple grant categories for up to $75,000 per business. Job creation, retention, and restoration goals are tied to all categories.

“Throughout the pandemic, Genesee County and local economic development partners, such as the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC), formed an Economic Recovery Task Force, which met monthly to discuss the impacts of the pandemic and strategize efforts to assist with reopening and business recovery,” said Genesee County Manager Matt Landers. “Based on the extensive feedback from businesses across the county, we determined that pursuing this funding opportunity would provide the type of financial assistance they are seeking.”

“Small businesses are the backbone of our regional economy and the process for reviewing applications is similar to our micro-enterprise small business loan program so it will be a seamless process,” said GCEDC President and CEO Steve Hyde.

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.

February 15, 2022 - 9:11pm
posted by Press Release in COVID-19, news, Steve Hawley, 139th assembly district.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) joined his Assembly Minority colleagues yesterday in urging lawmakers to vote on legislation (A.8101) to prohibit state agencies from mandating the masking of healthy, asymptomatic children in schools and other similar public settings. This amendment was voted down overwhelmingly by members of the Assembly Majority.

Hawley has for months called for the state mask mandate to be terminated in all public settings, including schools. He believes that the authority to implement mask mandates and similar public health policies should rest with local governments and health departments, who have a better understanding of the needs and circumstances of their communities than state-level bureaucrats.

“Last night’s vote made it clearer than ever which members of the Assembly truly stand behind parents,” said Hawley. “I am deeply disappointed that members of the Majority last night were more concerned with preserving the power of the governor than listening to our parents and the most recent data on COVID-19, which shows new infections are steeply declining. Even though this proposal did not pass, it will at least make it obvious to voters which of us in this chamber are willing to stand up to the endless mandates of Gov. Hochul.”

February 14, 2022 - 9:41am
posted by Press Release in genesee county, news, COVID-19.

Press release:

Genesee County announced on Friday that the policy requiring employees and members of the public to wear masks inside County facilities, regardless of vaccination status, ended effective Friday, February 10, 2022. This decision was made following statements from Governor Hochul that she will allow the State’s indoor setting mask mandate to expire as scheduled today.

Effective Friday, February 10, 2022, employees and members of the public may enter County facilities without wearing masks, with the exception of the Genesee County Mental Health and Public Health Clinical settings.  Employees and visitors to the Genesee County Mental Health and Public Health Clinics must continue to wear a mask while on the premises.  County officials urge both employees and the public to assess their own risk and strongly encourage those with increased risk of contracting COVID-19 or anyone with a compromised immunized system to continue to wear a mask.

The County will continue to practice social distancing and enhanced cleaning measures to help ensure the safety of employees and residents.

“We are encouraged by the continued and significant decrease in cases and hospitalizations in Genesee County and across the Finger Lakes region.” Said County Manager Matt Landers. “The expiration of the State’s mask mandate announced yesterday by the Governor is a welcome sign that things are continuing to trend in the right direction and we can begin taking steps to return to some semblance or normalcy.”

Public Health Director Paul Pettit commented, “While we continue to see decreasing cases and hospitalizations, there is still a significant amount of viral spread within the community. We urge residents to assess their own risk factors and make decisions about the mitigation strategies they should continue to utilize to help protect them from this virus that is still very much present throughout our area.”

February 9, 2022 - 7:18pm
posted by Press Release in COVID-19, news.

Press release:

 New York State has provided Genesee County with free COVID-19 test kits and KN95 masks to distribute to residents.

As of yesterday, a limited number of test kits and masks will be available at town and village municipal buildings listed below during their regular business hours, while supplies last. Residents will be required to show proof of residency and should contact their local municipality for hours of operation and availability.

  • Town of Alabama
  • Town of Alexander
  • Town of Batavia
  • Town of Bergen
  • Town of Bethany
  • Town of Byron
  • Town of Elba
  • Town of LeRoy
  • Town of Oakfield
  • Town of Pavilion
  • Town of Pembroke
  • Town of Stafford
  • Village of Alexander
  • Village of Bergen
  • Village of Corfu
  • Village of Elba
  • Village of LeRoy
  • Village of Oakfield
  • Genesee County Clerk’s Office (15 Main St, Batavia)
  • Genesee County Fire Training Center (7690 State Street Road, Batavia)

On Saturday, February 12, 2022, from 10:00 am to Noon, the City of Batavia Fire Department (18 Evans Street, Batavia) will host a drive-thru COVID-19 test kit distribution. Residents are asked to follow the directions posted at the front of the fire station when they arrive.

“The COVID-19 community transmission level is still high in Genesee County,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “We continue to encourage residents to use at-home COVID-19 tests after a possible exposure to someone with COVID-19 or when they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19.”

To report a Positive 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 in permanent marker within 15 minutes of reading the test. 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 immediately. You may not be contacted regarding your contacts, so it is important to notify your close contacts (those who you spent 15 minutes or more in a 24 hour period 2 days prior to symptoms or 2 days prior to a positive test result).  It is important to continue with self-isolation from household members as much as you are able.  Isolate for 5 days and if you are fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication, your symptoms are getting better, and you can tolerate a tight-fitting mask you can return to work/school but you are still required to wear a tight-fitting mask for 5 more days.  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.  To access isolation orders and isolation release paperwork visit our website at GOHealthNY.org (COVID-19 Isolation & Quarantine Documents & Information) and complete and print out or print and hand write the forms from the county you reside in and provide to your employer or school.

Residents can sign up for an upcoming COVID-19 vaccination clinic to receive their first dose, booster shot, or pediatric dose at the GO Health website at https://bit.ly/GOHealthCOVID.

February 9, 2022 - 6:53pm
posted by Press Release in Chris Jacobs, NY-27, news, COVID-19.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) joined the New York Republican Congressional Delegation in a letter to Governor Kathy Hochul calling for an immediate end to her Administration's statewide mask mandate in schools.
 
"In light of the announcements by the Governors of New Jersey, Connecticut, and Delaware, we write today to urge you to immediately rescind the onerous and unconstitutional mask mandate in New York State’s schools," the Members wrote. "We have heard from countless families throughout our districts expressing their concerns with the mandate, and how it has negatively impacted their child’s experience in the classroom. The time is now to put an end to this unlawful mandate and to allow our children to get back to being just that, children."
 
"After years of abiding by public health safety guidelines, children are itching to be able to return to some semblance of normalcy," the letter continues. "Knowing that the risk of transmission among children is extremely low, it is counter-intuitive to keep this ill-conceived mandate that does little to improve the wellness and safety of our state’s children. For these reasons, we urge you to end these punitive measures for once and for all."
February 9, 2022 - 6:49pm
posted by Press Release in Steve Hawley, 139th assembly district, news, COVID-19.

Press release:

“The end of the mask mandate for businesses is a welcome development, but given what the data is telling us about the rapid decline in COVID-19 infections and what is being done in neighboring states that have otherwise maintained egregious and heavy-handed policies throughout the pandemic, it isn’t close to the announcement we would hope to hear. At this point it should be no question that the time for state-level mandates of any kind has come to an end and control of pandemic management should return to local governments and school districts.

“For rural communities like mine, mask mandates for healthy children in schools have done far more harm than good. Should educators and local administrators deem that such mandates aren’t needed, they should have the ability to make the best decision possible for the well-being of their students.”

February 9, 2022 - 6:38pm
posted by Press Release in kathy hochul, COVID-19, news.

Press release:

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced New York's new Winter Toolkit for the new phase of the pandemic, aiming to keep New York safe, open and moving forward. The Winter Toolkit focuses on five core areas: protecting the most vulnerable New Yorkers, increasing vaccinations and boosters, strengthening our health care system, empowering local leaders, and supporting individuals facing the long-term effects of COVID.

"As we begin a new phase in our response to this pandemic, my top priority is making sure we keep New York safe, open and moving forward," Governor Hochul said. "I want to thank the health care workers, business owners and everyday New Yorkers who acted responsibly during the Omicron surge by masking up and getting vaccinated. But make no mistake: while we're moving in the right direction, this pandemic isn't over and our new Winter Toolkit shows us the path forward."

Governor Hochul announced that the statewide indoor business mask-or-vaccine requirement will be lifted starting Thursday, February, 10, and will remain optional for businesses, local governments and counties to enforce. This protocol, a temporary measure implemented on December 10 as statewide cases spiked, was an effective tool to address the winter surge and the rise of the Omicron variant. With case counts plummeting and hospitalizations sharply declining, this temporary measure is no longer needed statewide. Counties, cities, and businesses will be able to opt into the mask-or-vaccine requirement if they so choose. 

Masks remain a critical tool to fight the spread of COVID-19, and mask requirements will remain in place in certain high-density settings. All health care settings regulated by the Department of Health and other related state agencies will continue to require masks. Masks will also be required in nursing homes, adult care facilities, correctional facilities, detention centers, homeless shelters, and domestic violence shelters, public transit and transportation hubs, as well as trains, planes and airports in accordance with federal regulations. 

Governor Hochul also announced plans to assess the mask requirement in schools in early March, to ensure students can continue learning in-person and in the classroom. The assessment will be based on public health data, including key metrics like cases per 100,000 residents, hospital admission rates, vaccination rates, global trends and pediatric hospitalizations. Plans are already underway to distribute two tests for every K-12 student ahead of midwinter break, and continue distribution the following week when students return to school. In the meantime, Governor Hochul has directed the Department of Health to work on preliminary guidance, with input from educators and parents, to keep students and teachers safe.

With a new phase of the pandemic beginning, Governor Hochul unveiled a new Winter Toolkit to help keep New Yorkers safe. The toolkit includes efforts to:

  1. Protect the most vulnerable
  2. Increase access to vaccines, boosters and testing
  3. Strengthen the health system
  4. Empower local leaders
  5. Support New Yorkers facing long-term COVID effects

Protecting the Most Vulnerable
New York State will continue to acquire and distribute masks and tests to New Yorkers to ensure those who need them can access them. The state's test stockpile contains 92 million tests. Over 14.2 million tests have been distributed to schools and tests will continue to be distributed as needed. 4.2 tests have been distributed to nursing homes, 2.4 million tests to adult care/congregate facilities, and 4 million tests to counties.

1.28 million masks have been distributed to nursing homes and 5.5 million masks have been distributed to counties.

Visitation rules in nursing homes will remain in place. Visitors must show proof of a negative test within 24 hours of their visit and masks will remain required.

Tests will be made widely available for students so that K-12 students can go home for their Midwinter Break with two tests.

Increase Access to Vaccines, Boosters and Testing

  • New York State's mass vaccination and testing sites will remain open to ensure all eligible New Yorkers can access first, second, and third doses for themselves and their children.
  • The State's #VaxForKids pop-up programming continues to expand with 63 new sites established today and 193 sites established to date. This effort brings the vaccine directly to parents, guardians, and their children at local schools, community centers, and destinations like farmer's markets to make getting vaccinated convenient and accessible for families.
  • New York State is actively preparing for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to come online for children under 5 years old.
  • The State's robust education efforts to reach New Yorkers with good, science-based information about the vaccine is on-going including through traditional advertising, digital and multimedia campaigns, and direct messaging efforts through SMS text messaging, robo-calling, and Excelsior Pass push notifications.
  • All 61 state-operated and state-partnered testing sites will remain open to provide New Yorkers with access to COVID-19 testing.
  • Testing also remains widely available at over 1,800 sites statewide in every region of the State.

Strengthen the Healthcare System
To troubleshoot shortage issues, Executive Order 4 to increase staffing flexibility will remain in place. National Guard will continue to be trained to be able to staff in places needed as well.

As part of the Governor's Winter Surge Plan 2.0, the State has already deployed 20-member Medical Specialty Teams from the U.S. military hospital support team to Erie County Medical Center, a 35-member team to SUNY Upstate in Syracuse, 92 new ambulance teams to different regions in the state, including 50 to NYC, and two Medical Specialty Teams (MSTs) of 20 personnel from the Department of Defense to Strong Memorial Hospital.

Governor Hochul also outlined investments to strengthen the health care system in her 2022 State of the State Address and FY 2023 Budget. $10 billion will be invested to grow the health care workforce by twenty percent in five years. $4 billion will be invested in wages and bonuses to stop the hemorrhaging of health care staff. $1.6 billion will be invested via the Capital Plan.

Empower Local Leaders
Governor Hochul's announcement today comes after consultation with local leaders on steps the state is taking to fight COVID-19.

Support New Yorkers Facing Long-Term COVID Effects
Last Thursday, the State's Department of Health hosted an expert forum on Long COVID and over 2,000 individuals registered to view the panels. Panelists included specialists, clinicians, social scientists, patients and advocates who shared their experience, expertise, and insights.

This discussion, as well as continued focus and study by the Department, will inform the State's response which will span policy, regulatory, and program considerations to support New Yorkers suffering from long COVID as well as the healthcare providers who care for them.

February 8, 2022 - 5:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Steve Hawley, news, 139th assembly district, COVID-19.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) has joined fellow members of the Assembly Minority in drafting a letter to Gov. Hochul, Department of Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett, and Department of Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa opposing a proposed change to New York state’s regulations that would empower the Department of Health and Department of Education to unilaterally implement mask mandates and other COVID-related edicts. Hawley argues this policy would essentially return emergency powers to Gov. Hochul in perpetuity, depriving the Legislature of its authority to design and implement such orders and the ability of local health departments to cater their pandemic response toward the unique circumstances faced by their communities. 

“New Yorkers have been overwhelmingly calling for a return to normalcy and the implementation of this dystopian policy would be the farthest thing from that, forever granting Gov. Hochul the power to plunge our lives back into a state of chaos at her whim,” said Hawley “This proposal is an attempt by Hochul’s administration to feign concern for public health in order to claw power away from the people, their local governments and their elected representatives, and cannot be allowed to stand.”

February 7, 2022 - 8:15pm

As a state mask mandate for schools creeps toward its Feb. 21 expiration date, at least one Genesee County school plans to be officially armed.

Oakfield-Alabama Central School has set an emergency Board of Education meeting this week to vote on a resolution regarding masks in schools. The meeting is at 6:45 a.m. Wednesday at the Junior-Senior High School, 7001 Lewiston Road. 

“We’re waiting on a final determination about whether it will be extended or lifted,” Superintendent John Fisgus said to The Batavian Monday. “There’s a lot of advocacy out there …we want some type of end goal in preparation for the possibility for the mandate to be lifted. Our board wants to be proactive. When and if it’s lifted, we will be prepared when it's lifted. Masking will be optional.”

At the beginning of this year, the choice for masking was “split down the middle,” Fisgus said. That has shifted.

“An overwhelming majority want it to be a personal choice,” he said. “I’m not advocating for masks; I’m advocating for personal choice. In the last month or so there’s been a huge movement to lift the mandate and let people decide on their own.” 

The board's resolution reads, in part: “The Board of Education seeks to allow parents and students the freedom to choose whether to wear a mask indoors on school property or on a school bus.” It will give the superintendent the executive power necessary to implement protocols and procedures which allow parents and students the freedom to choose whether or not to wear a mask within and on school property. 

This move also includes the authority to modify school protocols “if the need arises due to future health concerns, emergency situations and/or necessary means for the health and safety of students and school staff alike.”

Oakfield-Alabama was one of eight Genesee County public school districts to sign a letter for New York State Governor Kathy Hochul requesting that each district be granted authority to create and enforce its own COVID-19 rules, rather than being told what to do by the state. 

Batavia City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith sent the letter on behalf of Alexander, Byron-Bergen, Elba, Le Roy, Oakfield-Alabama, Pavilion, and Pembroke school districts. Although there’s been a strong focus on whether or not to wear masks, the letter did not have that emphasis, Smith said. 

“It’s not just about masks, it’s how schools are run,” he said. “I’d say for every 10 emails, at least eight are for local control about the masks, and are strongly opposed to the mask mandate. We’re engaged in conversations, and listening to the parents and to the medical folks. We’ll be ready when the time comes to have a plan.”

The state mandate is set to expire on Feb. 21. Batavia’s Board of Education meeting may be a venue for further discussions, Smith said. It’s set for 6 p.m. Feb. 17 at Batavia High School’s library, 260 State St., Batavia. 

In other school news, Le Roy Central and Pembroke Central school districts have board meetings this week. Le Roy’s meeting is at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Wolcott Street Elementary School memorial auditorium and includes a budget presentation for the 2022-23 school year.

Likewise, Pembroke’s agenda includes a budget presentation for its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Jr/Sr High School Library Media Center, routes 5 and 77 in Corfu.

February 4, 2022 - 5:50pm
posted by Press Release in COVID-19, news, Steve Hawley, 139th assembly district.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) has written a letter to Gov. Hochul at the behest of school districts within the 139th Assembly District requesting that she put forward guidance to school districts that would provide a “path to normalcy” by ending all state-mandated COVID-19 mitigation measures and returning control of such policies to local school districts. 

In recent weeks, school district superintendents throughout the state have called for the creation of such a plan, following an over 90% decrease in new COVID-19 cases statewide since infections peaked on Jan. 7.

“If we’re looking at the data to guide our decisions as policymakers, it’s become clear the time has come to restore authority to local school districts to make the best decisions possible for students in their communities,” said Hawley. “I’ve always been guided by the belief that local decision-makers know how to best serve the interests of their neighbors. Throughout the pandemic our rural school districts have managed to implement creative and effective solutions to comply with mandates, as difficult as that’s been with how many students lack reliable broadband access. 

“If their rightful authority to design and enforce policies of this nature is returned to them, I’m certain the measures they choose to implement will be ones that both enhance the learning experience for students and protect their health, without disrupting their education.”

February 3, 2022 - 8:17pm
posted by Press Release in Chris Jacobs, NY-27, COVID-19, news.

Press release:

Today Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) introduced the Kids in Classes Act, which redirects Title I education money to students in the event a school shuts down in-person education. The bill is a companion to Senate legislation introduced by Senators Tim Scott (R-SC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and Richard Burr (R-NC). The legislation led by Jacobs in the House has 12 original cosponsors.

“For two years we have seen the damaging impacts of remote learning on our students. When schools are shut down, our children’s education suffers – this is unacceptable,” Jacobs said. “I am proud to join my Senate colleagues in introducing this critical piece of legislation that will ensure students are given consistent and uninterrupted access to in-person learning and quality education. Additionally, this legislation promotes school choice and access to the best educational outlets and services for low-income kids.”

“School closures have failed America’s children, particularly students in marginalized communities whose families are living paycheck-to-paycheck,” Senator Scott said. “As districts continue to bow to the demands of labor unions, we must ensure our nation’s children are protected from further learning loss and isolation. Enabling all kids to achieve the American Dream starts with giving all kids the education they deserve—no matter their zip code.”

“When teachers' unions have more say in a child’s education than that child’s own parent, we have a problem,” Dr. Cassidy said. “The science is clear, kids need to be in the classroom. Our bill empowers parents to choose what is best for their child’s education.”

“Students are more successful when they are in the classroom, parents know that and data proves it,” Senator Burr said. “This legislation will help keep children in the classroom by giving families the option to continue using Title I funds at a different, in-person school should their child’s current public school close because of COVID-19. I’m proud to work with Senators Scott and Cassidy on this important legislation to help families avoid the devastating impacts of unnecessary school closures.”

The Kids in Classes Act will allow for Title I funding to follow children if their schools close due to COVID-19 or a strike. These funds could be used for a range of educational support services in the wake of schools not upholding commitments to in-person learning, including curriculum and curricular materials, instruction materials, tutoring/educational classes outside of the home, private school tuition, and educational therapies for students with disabilities.
 

February 3, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, UMMC, Rochester Regional Health, batavia, COVID-19.

3a37671b-b605-43fc-abb0-fa442f33c950.jpeg
For nearly two decades Sandy Lloyd had worked at a bank before getting laid off in the midst of COVID-19. 

So she reassessed her life and took note of news reports that healthcare workers were walking off the job due to vaccine mandates.

“I wasn’t enjoying my job anymore… sitting at a desk every day,” she said, turning to the news reports. “They were losing a lot of people due to that. I thought ‘I need a job, they need people, let’s try it.’ I don’t think I would have ever pursued it if there hadn’t been a pandemic.”

Lloyd, a Corfu resident, began her new career on Dec. 6 of last year. While it may be only two months later, she has already embraced her new vocation at United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia. She admits to the many hours and long shifts but has discovered that there’s more to the working world than banking. Her formal title is clinical nursing assistant, and the job duties are a catch-all for those in need: in need of a beverage or meal, new bedding, personal hygiene assistance, a delivery to the lab, and the like.

“I’m on the third floor … I wait on everybody, get them water, pass out food trays, assist the nurses. It’s on-the-job training,” she said. “I look at the patient as a customer; it’s using customer service skills. Just being there and doing what they ask is the number one priority.”

Lloyd has merely shifted her former training and experience to focus on patients that are recovering from surgery versus bank customers cashing a check. Working with many registered and licensed practical nurses, she’s been told that she’s a “natural” in her new field. That encouragement coupled with her own enthusiasm has prompted the 41-year-old to attend nursing school in the near future.

Lloyd’s sister Dustin Miller is a nurse, and she forewarned Lloyd that it’s a tough job, while her mom seemed incredulous that her other daughter was also going into the field. The only ones not taking her new passion so well are Lloyd’s sons Bryce, 7, and 10-year-old Brody, she said. 

“They were a little upset because I work a lot of hours,” she said. “They miss their mama now.”

She works every other weekend, and the boys periodically spend time with their grandparents, “Nana” Janet and “Grumpy” Chris. Lloyd’s free time is spent playing with her sons and sleeping, she said. “We balance it all out,” she said. 

She was initially hired for a 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. time slot, and that has evolved into 12- to 16-hour shifts because she volunteers to take on extra hours, she said. Despite the potential issues due to COVID-19, she took all of the possible precautions for her and her family, including being vaccinated,  getting the booster shot, wearing a mask, and, per hospital routine, doing “a lot of hand washing.”

Other than that, it was full speed ahead.

“I just ran into it,” she said. “I can’t deny these people care because of worry about COVID. Every day is humor for me; I do something stupid to make people laugh. We all try to laugh during the day.”

Lloyd is often on the job when patients go into surgery and then later when they are recovering, which makes them ask if she ever goes home. “Yes, when you were sleeping,” she tells them. She hasn’t reconsidered her former employment and encourages others to try the healthcare field if they’re looking for a change. Her co-workers are a team working toward a common goal, she said.

Rochester Regional Health took a major loss of employees after the New York State Department of Health issued a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. The mandate went into effect on Sept. 27, 2021. Although “many were granted religious exemptions” initially, those exemptions were overturned and all employees were required to get their first dose by Nov. 22, a Rochester Regional Health spokeswoman said.

As a result, there were approximately 350 employees in the Rochester and St. Lawrence regions “who made the personal choice to decline vaccinations and leave our health system,” the spokeswoman said. “The employees represent approximately 200 full-time equivalents.”

The void left by those workers made for many vacancies and related news stories, which in turn opened a door for Lloyd.

“I actually enjoy the job. I’m constantly learning and doing something new every day,” she said. “It really does make a difference.”

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Top photo: Sandy Lloyd of Corfu works in her new job as a clinical nursing assistant at United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia. Lloyd is pictured here with her sons Brody, middle, and Bryce. Above, Lloyd works her shift helping outpatients and nurses at UMMC. Photos top and above submitted by Rochester Regional Health, and family photo submitted by Sandy Lloyd.



 

February 1, 2022 - 10:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, news, notify, COVID-19.

All 13 school district superintendents in Genesee and Orleans counties have signed a joint letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul asking that local control over public health protocols be fully restored to school districts.

The letter was written in response to a request from superintendents from Saratoga Springs for the NYS Health Department to develop a "Pathway to Normalcy" so that schools have an "exit strategy" from universal masking.

The letter states that local superintendents support the request but suggest it doesn't go far enough.

"We believe the pathway should come in the form of guidance that school districts, working closely with their local health departments, can use to develop plans that work best for their respective communities," the letter states. "With that in mind, local control should be fully restored to all school districts in New York State because the needs of each region differ, and we are fully capable of navigating the remainder of the school year with input from our local DOHs, as needed."

The letter notes that over the past two school years, the state has implemented "one-size-fits-all mandates" that caused unnecessary challenges for the predominately rural districts in Genesee and Orleans counties.

"As the pandemic transitions to become endemic, those unnecessary challenges are becoming more acute," the letter states.

To read the full letter, click here (pdf).

January 31, 2022 - 6:29pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Paul Pettit, COVID-19, omicron.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 26, 2022 - 7:00pm

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers is urging legislators and key staff members to strike while the iron is hot as far as funding opportunities from New York State are concerned.

“Just a couple of years ago … former Governor Cuomo was telling us that they had a four-year projection of something like $80 billion in the hole. A year later, they were down to $20 billion in the hole, and then $3 billion,” Landers said.

“Now, they're looking at something like over $50 billion to the positive in a four-year projection outlook. So, the state is looking at different opportunities to fund. If there’s ever a time to ask for stuff – this is the time.”

Landers made his comments during this afternoon’s County Legislature meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

With Genesee moving ahead with Phase 3 of its Countywide Water Project, Landers encouraged County Engineer Tim Hens and his team to “put together some aggressive ‘asks’ on the water side because it's never going to be any better than right now to be asking for funding for some of our projects.”

Landers said that in reviewing Gov. Kathy Hochul’s $216 billion spending plan for 2022-23, the path seems to be clear for the county to receive its 1 percent sales tax as well as the cash generated by video lottery terminals at Batavia Downs Gaming.

“At this point in time, it looks like there's more good than bad, and not necessarily all financial,” he said. “Just having the ability to not have to go back and beg Albany for our extra 1 percent sales tax is a nice provision that's in there. It isn't tied directly to financially -- it's more procedural and a bit nerve racking that we have to do it, but it’s a nice thing that it's in the (state) budget.”

He also said distribution of VLT money – an unknown in recent years – is on track, and the county is expected to receive “an additional windfall in Article Six funding for the health department … and for mental health and veteran services.”

Article 6 state funds help support critical services provided by local health departments.

MASKING OF COUNTY EMPLOYEES

Landers pointed out that the masking requirement for county employees, which has been in effect for some time, continues – regardless of any legal back-and-forth that is happening at the state level.

County employees must wear face coverings at all time, but can take them off when seated at their workstations and are at least six feet away from others. Visitors to county buildings also are required to wear masks.

“… the Genesee County policy that we had for masking for county employees and visitors to our buildings were in effect before the governor's mandate came into place,” Landers said. “And that would still be in effect, regardless of whatever the court decision was.”

Landers mentioned that the county policy was instituted when there were “a quarter of the cases in the county that we have now, so I think it'd would not be wise for us to not follow science and to open ourselves up to less safe conditions for our employees.”

“We’re going to monitor and hopefully be able to take a different action in the spring, when the cases are ... expected to reduce but just wanted to give an update to the legislature where we stand with that,” Landers said. “And that is with both consultation and an agreement and approval from our public health director.”

NEW COUNTY JAIL UPDATES

Landers said the timeline for the new $70 million county jail on West Main Street Road hasn’t changed, crediting the work of "jail team" members Paul Osborn and Laura Wadhams for their efforts and Hens for reviewing the site plans and preparing bid documents.

“We were scheduled to be out (with bids) next week but we'd rather have it right than to just to rush,” he said. “So the timeline is still a little fluid where we're looking at (maybe) an additional week or two delay, which isn't going to be significant in the long term.”

The county manager added that Osborn and Wadhams will save the county “well into the six figures on catching things we don’t need.”

“That would be a waste of taxpayer money. I've been highly impressed with the work that they've been doing for us. They're some of our best employees and we're lucky to have them,” he said.

LEGISLATORS PASS RULE 19 ITEMS

The final two of the 54 resolutions on the meeting’s agenda were Rule 19 measures (late additions) relating to the purchase of COVID-19 test kits and the revision of the county’s purchasing policy specifically for the jail project.

Genesee County was hoping to use state funds to buy 20,000 test kits for its residents, but learned in recent days that would not be allowed. As a result, it reverted to its original resolution that called upon using $150,750 from American Rescue Plan Act (federal) funding.

Concerning the purchasing resolution, the legislature authorized Landers to approve expenditures up to $35,000 – instead of the current $20,000 limit – exclusively during the construction of the jail.

The change was made after consulting with construction management, engineering and architectural officials, who are looking to avoid any work stoppages by having to wait for the full legislature to convene.

January 26, 2022 - 5:17pm
posted by Press Release in elba, COVID-19, news.

Press release:

The Village of Elba will be handing out free COVID- 19 test kits on Saturday, January 29, 2022, from 11 a.m. to Noon based on availability.

There is a limit of to two (2) test kits per individual, four (4) tests per household. You must be a Genesee County resident and there are no pre-orders.

This event will take place at the Village Office, 4 South Main St. in Elba.

January 26, 2022 - 11:14am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, schools, education, COVID-19.

Being superintendent of Elba Central School during a pandemic the last two years has made Gretchen Rosales mull what her inherent role is, she says. 

What it’s not is to be a doctor, scientist, or another virus expert, though current times have hinted otherwise, she said.

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Elba Central School Superintendent Gretchen Rosales

“I sometimes reflect upon the fact that I did not study to be an epidemiologist;  I studied to become an educator,” Rosales said to The Batavian as part of a district round-up in Genesee County. “But COVID has consumed so much of school and what we do here.  Education is my passion and I can talk for days about what my vision of a high-achieving school looks like.  But COVID has been the topic of conversation for the past two years, and I think that we are all ready to move on and focus on what school should really be about: learning and growing.”

And how does one do that in the thick of ever-shifting recommendations and mandates dealing with all things COVID-19? Rosales has a focus on keeping her school community physically and mentally healthy. That means maintaining a routine, keeping students in school, and offering extracurricular activities that allow for meaningful engagement, she said. 

“And providing opportunities for them to make a difference in their community is an important measure in positive mental health,” she said.   

Her district recently had a dozen students and/or staff members out sick with COVID-19, which is more than what’s been seen in the past, she said. On the other hand, that hasn’t been too surprising given “the trends that we have seen in the community,” she said. Part of those trends involves a new routine.

“Our school nurse does have a testing protocol and she spends a good portion of her day testing students or staff, either due to the mandated testing of the unvaccinated or due to symptomatic cases,” Rosales said.  “We follow all DOH protocols for universal masking, testing, and quarantine.”

When asked what advice she would give to district families, Rosales had nothing specific other than to regularly wash one’s hands and stay home when ill. Aside from that, though, is her more serious concern: “that all schools are focusing on the mental health of our entire school community.” 

January is the traditional time for New Year’s resolutions, and Rosales is looking forward to what the 2022 school year will bring. Her goals for the district include “continuing to refine our instructional programs,” she said.

“To offer a high quality, rigorous education for all Lancers. We are looking at ways to continuously expand our academic and extracurricular opportunities for all students,” she said. “Personally, I feel that it is important to continue to grow as an educator myself, which includes making time to read current research, visit other schools, and engage in professional development.”

Batavia City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith, who began his role at the district on Jan. 3, resolves to balance his new job requirements with a “full and balanced lifestyle, including continued regular exercise, healthy eating and rest and relaxation.”

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Batavia City School District Superintendent Jason Smith

For his district, Smith, a 1990 Batavia High School grad, is placing his own stellar expectations onto all students as a New Year's resolution for 2022. His personal mantra has been to "raise the bar, set high goals," and he believes that it's "our job as the adults" to help students achieve those high expectations. He has been open to questions from the district population and hosted a community forum online for a Q&A with him and other district leaders. One question was regarding the wearing of masks, and he acknowledged that some people like them and others do not. Personal preference aside, though, Smith said that masks are to be worn as a state and district protocol. Batavia's Board of Education also recently approved the purchase of portable air purification devices. 

As far as cases being reported for the district and in Genesee County, Smith feels they reflect those numbers cited at a national level. His district’s goal is to keep students in the classroom.

“But as we’ve shared with our families, it will take a combined effort,” Smith said. “We continue to ask families to keep children home if they’re not feeling well, and to reinforce good hygiene habits. We were grateful to receive a supply of at-home testing kits to distribute to the district (a week ago), and we’re working with the Health Department on implementing ‘Test-To-Stay’ in our schools.”

The Test-to-Stay procedure has begun at school districts in an effort to keep as many students in school while rooting out positive cases for required isolation and/or quarantine. 

Smith added his thanks to the school staff, “who have been a tremendous source of support during this challenging and evolving time.”   

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Pavilion Central School Superintendent Kate Hoffman

In addition to what school districts do, there’s the “why” behind that work for Pavilion Central School Superintendent Mary Kate Hoffman. 

“When things are stressful, difficult or overwhelming it is important to remember (and to help those around you remember) that the reason we do what we do each day is to give our students the best education and school experience we can,” Hoffman said.

Similar to other districts, Pavilion has experienced “a significant rise” — up to 10 percent — of student and staff absences. Although not every absence is related to COVID-19, she said, the majority are due to positive cases or being quarantined from exposure at the home.   

Pavilion follows all Department of Health guidelines and ascribes to universal masking recommendations. Communication, testing for those with symptoms, and promoting vaccinations and masks have also been key, she said.

“We have reached out to our community to ask that they keep their children home if they are sick.  Getting vaccinated and wearing masks helps us keep our kids in school,” she said. “We also have amazing school nurses who are working extra hard to keep our whole school community healthy, and we are very thankful for the work that they are doing for us.”  

Matthew Calderon’s resolution is as superintendent of Pembroke Central School: “To continue to pursue and promote a UNIFIED (he emphasized in all caps) approach in everything we do here in Pembroke.”

As for COVID-19 protocols, the Pembroke district’s attendance 10 days into January was at 87 percent, with only six employees absent. Employees have been tested on a weekly basis since early November, and so far, “it’s going well.”

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Pembroke Central School Superintendent Matthew Calderon

“Our Continuation of Operations Plan includes all the standard protocols for masking, testing, and quarantines, as required by the NYSDOH Commissioner's Determinations,” Calderon said. “In Pembroke, we track and communicate student COVID numbers on a monthly basis.  In September, three students tested positive district-wide.  In October, nine students tested positive district-wide. In November, 26 students tested positive district-wide.  In December, 45 students tested positive district-wide.  I will not have January's numbers until the first week of February, but I think it's safe to say they may be higher than December.”

The district peaked in positive COVID-19 cases in January, he said, but remained open every day. The coronavirus is “clearly transitioning to become endemic” he said, and the district is in a much better place overall than last year at this time. 

“We are confident we will remain open every day this year as well,” he said, offering some advice to the district community for keeping healthy. "Take care of yourself mentally and emotionally, and have hope as we start 2022!"  

He takes some reassurance from the Centers for Disease Control data for New York State showing “significantly lower” numbers so far this year for COVID-related hospitalizations, as compared to January 2021.

“While increased testing and the newest strains of COVID certainly caused a dramatic increase in the number of positive COVID cases identified, the CDC Data for the week ending January 1, 2022, shows that hospitalizations throughout New York State are significantly lower than when they peaked in January 2021,” he said.

For more information about state hospitalization numbers, go to: https://gis.cdc.gov/grasp/COVIDNet/COVID19_3.html

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Oakfield-Alabama Central School Superintendent John Fisgus

Oakfield-Alabama Central School never had to switch learning modes to a hybrid format of part in-school and part at home, Superintendent John Fisgus said. Likewise, the district didn’t have to pack three students per seat on the bus as other districts such as Batavia have had to. The city school district heard some parental concerns about the close-knit quarters on buses, which prompted Batavia Board of Education President Alice Benedict to encourage worried parents with the option to drive their students to school instead.

Oakfield-Alabama had no such experience, Fisgus said.

“We were able to accommodate one kid to a seat, and they have to wear masks,” he said. “The bus drivers disinfect buses before the next run. Our buses are not overcrowded; we never had that issue.”

There has been “a lot of testing,” he said, and the district, as other towns, villages, and schools in Genesee County have done, has offered COVID-19 testing kits to families. Despite the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases early this year, he has taken note of a bright side.

“We’re struggling, like any district, with an increase in COVID cases,” he said. “The good news is that symptoms don’t seem to be as severe. People seem to be getting over it, with a day or two of symptoms, and then they’re ready to go.”

Fisgus and other superintendents emphasized how helpful and valiant their school nurses have been. The school nurse has played a central role in most districts as the starting point for prospective COVID-19 cases. 

“The school nurses have been unbelievable,” Fisgus said. 

The Batavian contacted all districts by email and phone with questions regarding board meeting agendas, New Year’s resolutions, and the impact of COVID-19 so far in 2022. Alexander, Byron-Bergen, and Le Roy district superintendents did not respond. Byron-Bergen’s communications person did reply with information about board agendas. Board of Education agendas may be found at each respective district’s website, and meetings are open to the public.

The most recent COVID-19 numbers are in a related article, “COVID-19 numbers for Genesee County School Districts.” 

January 26, 2022 - 10:51am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, schools, COVID-19.

As of Jan. 24, Le Roy Central School district had the highest current number of positive COVID-19 cases, with 18 students, three teachers and three staff members testing positive. National news reports have cited the latest Omicron variant to be more prevalent but with less severe symptoms than the prior Delta variant. As of Jan. 17, the total number of deaths from COVID-19 was 169 in Genesee County.

New test-to-stay procedures and take-home testing kits have been put in place for Genesee County school districts, and Genesee County Health Department’s guidance, as of Jan. 13, recommends several precautionary measures for students to remain healthy and in school.

These include getting the COVID-19 vaccine, following universal indoor masking protocols; maintaining at least three feet of physical distance between people; following test, isolation, and quarantine procedures; stick to hand washing and respiratory rules; and stay home when sick and when getting tested for suspected illness.

The following numbers are from New York State’s School COVID Report Card. Numbers are for positive cases from Jan. 11 to 24 in Genesee County public school districts:

Alexander Central School
Students - 8
Teachers - 1
Staff - 0
Total: 9

Batavia City Schools
Students - 15
Teachers - 0
Staff - 2
Total: 17

Byron-Bergen Central School
Students - 12
Teachers - 0
Staff - 1
Total: 13

Elba Central School
Students - 8
Teachers - 0
Staff - 3
Total: 11

Le Roy Central School
Students - 18
Teachers - 3
Staff - 3
Total: 24

Oakfield-Alabama Central School
Students - 13
Teachers - 4
Staff - 3
Total: 20

Pavilion Central School
Students - 4
Teachers - 0
Staff - 2
Total: 6

Pembroke Central School
Students - 7
Teachers - 3
Staff - 2
Total: 12

School districts report their numbers each week to the state site. For more information, go to: https://schoolcovidreportcard.health.ny.gov/#/searchResults
 

January 24, 2022 - 9:18pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, news, COVID-19.

The Town of Batavia blocked out the hours of 5 to 7 p.m. to distribute free COVID-19 test kits at Town Hall.

All 110 kits were gone by 5:30 p.m., according to Clerk Teressa Morasco.

The kits were only available to Genesee County residents, proof of residence required, and there was a limit to two per household.

January 24, 2022 - 4:41pm
posted by Press Release in Le Roy, COVID-19, health.

Press Release:

The Town of LeRoy has received  110 COVID test kits. Each kit contains two tests. The town will distribute them for free on Wednesday Jan. 26 at the Town Hall starting at 10:00 a.m., on a first come first serve basis. Each household may have two test kits. You must be a resident of Genesee County in order to receive the kits. Please bring ID that shows your residency.

 

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