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December 23, 2021 - 1:47pm
posted by Press Release in Charles Schumer, upstate, news, COVID-19.

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 today 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 today 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 woulddeliver 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.

 

A copy of Senator Schumer’s original letter to FEMA appears below:

 Dear Administrator Criswell:

I write today to ask for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) assistance as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent increase in cases due to the Omicron variant. The spike in cases has brought upon an increased demand for testing that is sure to strain the already robust testing infrastructure in New York City. In addition to supporting the City of New York’s request for an increased supply of at-home test kits, I ask that FEMA authorize the opening of 100 mobile test sites in New York City, and 100 additional mobile test sites across the rest of the state, including in Long Island.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, FEMA has played a central role in New York City’s fight against COVID-19. While I am grateful for these efforts and for the work of FEMA staffers, I ask that FEMA continue this partnership and build on its efforts as cases increase due to the Omicron variant. On December 21, 2021 New York City recorded its highest 7-day daily average of cases at nearly 9,500 cases. As reports of daily cases and hospitalizations continue to trend upward, it is vital that FEMA provide the City with the necessary resources to help slow this spread. With more testing capabilities in the form of at-home kits and testing sites, the City can better gauge the trends of this variant and provide more accurate guidance and information to residents.

Thank you again for your leadership and assistance over the past year as New York and the nation continue battling COVID-19. FEMA has been an invaluable partner in combatting this pandemic and I ask that as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly you continue this partnership and swiftly provide New York City the increased at-home testing kits requested in their letter to the Administration and authorize the opening of 100 testing sites across the City and 100 additional sites across the State.  

I appreciate your attention to this important matter and look forward to your response. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office with any questions

 

December 23, 2021 - 11:46am
posted by Press Release in COVID-19, 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.

December 22, 2021 - 1:32pm
posted by Press Release in COVID-19, 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

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.”

December 20, 2021 - 6:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in COVID-19, 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.

December 15, 2021 - 5:44pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, County Legislature, COVID-19, Common Ground Health.

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.

 

December 14, 2021 - 1:57pm
posted by Press Release in news, COVID-19, Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Press release from Rochelle M. Stein, Chair, Genesee County Legislature; Lynne M. Johnson, Chair, Orleans County Legislature; John C. Welch Jr., Orleans County Chief Administrative Officer, L. Matthew Landers, Genesee County Manager and Paul A. Pettit, Genesee and Orleans Counties Public Health Director:

BATAVIA – Due to the current COVID-19 surge, New York State Governor Hochul announced on Friday, December 10th that starting Monday, December 13, 2021 through January 15, 2022, that masks will be required in all public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. However, Governor Hochul did not clearly state how enforcement of the mask mandate will occur.

“The Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health) will continue to focus our efforts on offering free vaccination and testing clinics as well as conducting case investigations,” said Paul Pettit, Genesee and Orleans Public Health Director.  “Outside of our own County facilities, we do not have the capacity to enforce mask mandates and enforcing mandates is not the best use of our limited resources at this point of the pandemic response.  As we have throughout the pandemic in line with CDC guidance, we continue to advise residents to properly wear masks indoors when social/physical distancing is not possible.”

“As we did during the last surge, Genesee County will take the approach with our community to Educate to Cooperate in regards to the benefits of masking and social distancing,” stated Rochelle Stein, Genesee County Legislature Chair.  

“In Orleans County, we will continue to focus our county resources on vaccinations, contact tracing, testing and working to keep children in school,” said Lynne Johnson, Orleans County Legislature Chair.  “We held two clinics this week, one for testing and one for booster shots. We continue to seek more testing resources from the state, because we believe identifying and isolating those who test positive is the greatest need right now to reduce the spread.”

To reduce the spread in our communities, we need to increase vaccination rates and increase testing in order to identify and isolate those who are positive with COVID-19.  However, rural county health departments continue to have issues securing additional testing resources. GO Health and local officials continue to advocate for additional resources and assistance from the state in order to have free testing in our communities. 

Genesee and Orleans County Public and Health officials encourage those who have not been vaccinated or have not received their booster shot, to do so as soon as possible.  Booster shots have just been approved for 16 and 17 year olds, 6 months after their last shot.  Visit https://gohealthny.org/covid-19-vaccine-information/ or www.vaccine.gov to make an appointment. If you are experiencing symptoms, please stay home and seek testing.  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

COVID-19 is not the gift to give this season, please plan to protect your loved ones by getting your vaccine and/or booster.

December 13, 2021 - 2:19pm
posted by Press Release in COVID-19, 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

December 10, 2021 - 4:05pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, UMMC, COVID-19, 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. 

December 10, 2021 - 3:10pm
posted by Press Release in news, 139th assembly district, Steve Hawley, COVID-19.

Press Relase from the office of Assemblyman Steve Hawley:

“Haphazardly implementing a statewide mask mandate in the middle of the holiday season, a period many businesses rely on to make ends meet for the year, is entirely unnecessary and will only handicap our small businesses during a make-or-break time for their operations. Protecting public health is important, but decisions such as this should be left to the local health authorities that know better than anyone what’s really going on in their communities. I had hoped our new governor would take a more measured approach to keeping the pandemic at bay, but it is clear now more than ever that she will continue to rule our state from the top down, to the detriment of New York families and businesses alike.”

Assemblyman Hawley represents the 139th District, which consists of Genesee, Orleans and parts of Monroe County. For more information, please visit Assemblyman Hawley’s Official Website.

December 10, 2021 - 10:10am
posted by Press Release in COVID-19, 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.      

December 9, 2021 - 11:35pm
posted by Press Release in state, news, COVID-19, NYS Department of Health.

Press Release:

The letter states, “Without question, no one cares about the health and well-being of our region’s children more than parents and local school administrators, faculty, and staff. In addition, it is undeniable that students benefit from in-person instruction and that every effort should be madeto keep kids in school. As such, we believe that we should respect the parents & school administrator’s opinions, guidance, and data regarding the viability, effectiveness, and safety of developing a “Test to Stay” program for schools.”

The letter:

Dear Governor Hochul:
We are writing to request that the New York State Department of Health work with local school districts to develop “Test to Stay” guidelines for students. It is our understanding that several districts from across the Erie- Niagara region have already contacted you as well as the Department of Health with this request, and as elected officials representing this area, we urge you to consider their request. Without question, no one cares about the health and well-being of our region’s children more than parents and local school administrators, faculty, and staff. In addition, it is undeniable that students benefit from in-person instruction and that every effort should be made to keep kids in school. As such, we believe that we should respect the parents & school administrator’s opinions, guidance, and data regarding the viability, effectiveness, and safety of developing a “Test to Stay” program for schools. According to the Erie-Niagara School Superintendents Association (ENSSA), in a regional survey of 30 districts between September 1st and October 14th of this year, approximately 2500 students have been quarantined, and fewer than 2% ever tested positive for COVID-19 during their quarantine period. Meaning nearly 2,450 healthy students missed significant learning time in the classroom because the State does not allow local districts to establish guidelines for students who have proven to be healthy, to return to school. As you recently noted, the current surge in COVID-19 cases is different, and as a society and government, we are much more knowledgeable and better equipped to confront ongoing challenges. We respectfully ask that you honor the ENSSA’s request and “require the Department of Health to: 1. Help keep healthy children in school by providing technical, financial, and other necessary support to facilitate statewide implementation of a “Test to Stay” strategy. 2. Replace open-ended COVID-19 related mandates and restrictions with data and science-based metrics for implementation and de-implementation of mitigation strategies.” While not perfect, we believe that a robust “Test to Stay” program is the best option to keep our children safe and ensure that healthy children can reenter the classroom as quickly and safely as possible. Serial testing has proven successful in other states across the nation, and we would encourage New York State to develop, adopt, and support a “Test to Stay” program for local schools.

Thank you for your consideration of this critical matter. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

EDWARD A. RATH III
State Senator – 61st District             

Robert G. Ortt                                           Patrick M. Gallivan
State Senator – 62nd District             State Senator – 59th District

George M. Borrello                                     Michael J. Norris
State Senator – 57th District                  State Assemblyman – 144th District

Angelo J. Morinello                                      David DiPietro
State Assemblyman – 145th District      State Assemblyman – 147th District

Joseph M. Giglio
State Assemblyman – 148th District

 

    

 

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 …”

December 8, 2021 - 7:38pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, County Legislature, COVID-19.

News that Monroe County has purchased 750,000 at-home rapid COVID-19 testing kits has triggered an expected response from leaders of Genesee and other rural counties in the Finger Lakes Region: Where are our test kits?

“We going to continue to beat the drum” for financial support from New York State to have access to as many test kits as needed, Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said during this afternoon’s County Legislature meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

Landers said members of the Finger Lakes Region group of administrators, public health officials and legislators are advocating for “a similar allotment” – enough test kits for distribution among their residents.

“Erie and Monroe counties got additional CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act money,” Landers said. “We have emailed the state and the response we got is that they (too) are having a hard time procuring them.”

On Tuesday, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello announced that 250,000 rapid test kits will be used for school-aged children and the other 500,000 will be given to towns, villages and the City of Rochester.

Landers said he believes that more in-home testing is “one way to lessen the spread,” adding that he is confident that residents possess the knowledge to administer the tests and the willingness to take appropriate action in the case of a positive COVID test.

On another front, Landers said that Jan. 5, 2022 is the target date for the processing of the bond resolution that will fund the new county jail on West Main Street Road. He said the county expects to issue construction bids at the end of January, award the bids in March and break ground in April.

The legislature approved the following appointments:

  • Gary Graber, Darien, Parks, Recreation & Forest Advisory Committee, 12/9/21-3/31/24.
  • Lynn VanDerBeck,. Byron, Office for the Aging Advisory Council, 1/1/22-12/31/24.
  • Dr. Javeed Mir, Batavia, 1/1/22-8/14/22; Wendy Haywood, Bergen, 1/1/22-12/31/22; Kathleen Antonelli, Batavia, 12/8/21-12/31/25; Vernon Saile, Byron, 12/8/21-12/31/25, Mental Health Community Services Board.
December 7, 2021 - 4:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in COVID-19, news, notify.

There were 236 new positive tests for COVID-19 among Genesee County residents over the past week, along with 250 people who had been positive but have been released from mandatory isolation.

The total active positive cases among local residents is 226 as of Monday.

Of those, 35 local residents are hospitalized.

Two more people, including one under age 65, have died as a result of contracting COVID-19, bringing the death total in Genesee County to 302 since the start of the pandemic.

As for vaccination, 30,551 Genesee County residents are fully vaccinated, or just shy of 56 percent of the population.

December 5, 2021 - 1:47pm
posted by Press Release in COVID-19, news, Charles Schumer.

Press release:

With COVID’s Omicron variant spreading, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said the key to controlling it centers around the at-home tests now for sale across the country. Schumer praised President Biden for prepping a plan to be released on January 15th that will have insurance companies reimburse for the cost of an at-home test—but, he said, while we wait, he wants a surge of rapid at-home tests sent to New York community health centers and their mobile sites, across the state.  

“While many portions of the country are waiting for the omicron variant to arrive, New York already has cases—but this doesn’t mean we should panic. It means we should be planning,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. 

“You see, a key to controlling Omicron is the at-home test, where you can swab your own nose, follow simple steps, determine if you have COVID, and take the right steps thereafter. Right now, these at-home tests are pretty affordable across the country, but they’re not free, but they should be. So, I am asking for the feds to send a surge of these to New York CHCs and their mobile sites where they should come at no cost. We should be arming the public with at-home tests to stay ahead of this variant into the winter,” Schumer added.   

Schumer urged for these at-home tests to be totally free, as in no fine print. He said people should be able to walk into a CHC or visit one of their mobile sites and pick up an at-home test free of charge. Schumer urged a surge of the at-home tests to New York, especially, saying that omicron is already here and that we must work now to contain its spread. Schumer said the funds to pay for these free tests have already been appropriated to HHS via the American Rescue Plan (ARP) he helped pass through Congress and the president signed into law.

Last week, the Biden administration announced its winter plan to beat back COVID. The administration will soon mandate insurers reimburse Americans for purchasing at-home tests. Three federal departments will issue the guidance for this action on Jan. 15. The guidance will stipulate that people who buy the tests will be able to seek reimbursement from their group health plan or health insurer and have it covered during the public-health emergency, according to the Wall Street Journal. The administration has authority to do this under legislation that Congress passed in March that required group health plans and issuers to cover diagnostic Covid-19 testing, the Journal reported. 

In the meantime, Schumer, today, is saying that sending a surge of these at-home tests to New York can once again utilize the CHC infrastructure that made getting shots in arms successful during the earliest days of vaccine availability. 

The Omicron variant has been detected in 11 states so far, and about 40 countries. Scientists are also still investigating the impact of the Omicron variant, how contagious it is, how easily it might spread, and more. Schumer, today, said this is exactly why a surge of at-home tests and a campaign to have people use them could make all the difference.

“We have this tool we didn’t have early on—an at-home test,” said Schumer. “It’s one of the keys to keeping this recovery going, and we ought to use them.”

According to the WHO, 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. 

There are more than 70 federal community health centers (CHC) with 800 sites throughout New York, according to the Community Health Care Association of NY.

December 3, 2021 - 6:02pm
posted by Press Release in COVID-19, news, animal shelter.

Press release:

Due to the increase in Covid cases within the county, Sheriff William A. Sheron, Jr. is requiring all business (including animal adoptions and turn ins) at the Genesee County Animal Shelter be conducted by appointment only.  This goes into effect beginning Monday, December 6.  This is a precautionary measure to prevent the risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to community members, Animal Shelter employees, and volunteers.   

December 3, 2021 - 9:31am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, COVID-19, genesee county, office for the aging.

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers, in response to a record number of new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, has revised the masking policy for county employees.

Effective yesterday, all county employees are required to wear masks while in county buildings, regardless of their vaccination status. Previously, the requirement was that county employees had to show that they were vaccinated in order to not have to wear an approved face covering.

“We can point to three key reasons why this change has been made,” Landers said last night. “First, Genesee County set a new record for positive cases in one day yesterday (Wednesday) with 82; next we are seeing that 35 percent of the positive cases are vaccine breakthrough cases (those who previously were vaccinated) and, although not confirmed, there is suspected spread of the virus from county employees.”

Landers said he is approaching further policy changes “in steps,” adding that the next step would be to require masking of members of the public in county facilities.

However, he said there would be “no step where we would impose anything on private entities, such as businesses. That would be left up to the state.”

He said he is leaving it up to department heads when it comes to specific buildings.

“At the Office for the Aging (on Bank Street), masks are required for both staff and the public,” he said, noting a higher risk among elderly residents.

Landers did say that once people are seated and kept apart by at least six feet, they can remove their masks.

The county employs about 500 people at various locations.

December 1, 2021 - 5:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in COVID-19, news, notify.

While there have been 307 new positive COVID-19 cases in Genesee County in the current reporting period, there has been a sharp decline overall in the number of current active cases since Nov. 22, when there were 397 active cases.  

As of today's report, there are 243 cases, with 30 of those people in the hospital.

The current reporting period, with 307 new cases, covers from Nov. 22 through Nov. 29, indicating recoveries over the past two days have outpaced new cases.

Between Nov. 22 and Nov. 29, there were 459 people removed from mandatory isolation due to a previous positive test.

One more person died during the week, bringing the total number of COVID-19-related deaths to 300 in Genesee County.

November 29, 2021 - 12:06pm

lesho.jpgOmicron B.1.1.529 -- a new and rapidly changing variant of the coronavirus that just this month was first identified by scientists in South Africa -- probably has found its way to the United States and should be considered as highly transmissible.

That's the opinion of Dr. Emil P. Lesho (photo at right), an Infectious Disease specialist with Rochester Regional Health, who addressed the media this morning via Zoom.

When asked about Omicron's impact in the Finger Lakes Region, Lesho said it's a bit early to tell, but "the quick answer is … it's likely in the United States."

"At last count, it was reported in 13 different countries, including Canada. So, it was first detected in South Africa … that doesn't necessarily mean that's where it originated, that's where it was detected first," he said.                                                                        

Noting that the variant has been linked to travel, he said the detection process "requires advanced whole genome sequencing (and) most hospital labs in the United States can do that technology."

"Specimens have to be collected first, then they have to be prepared, then they have to be sent to a special sequencing laboratory," he said. "So, that takes time. But as we speak, Rochester Regional is looking for this variant. We have our laboratories collecting samples and preparing them in the way I just described."

In the United States, public health officials believe that early evidence indicates an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron as compared to other variants, such as Delta. In fact, the Biden administration has placed a travel ban from South Africa and seven neighboring countries duo to this variant.

Lesho, when asked what doctors and researchers know about Omicron, said there's "a lot that we don't know."

"And, some of what myself and what anybody says today can be changed tomorrow; we're learning more and more every day."

He said Omicron has been labeled "a variant of concern," which is the highest classification of variants on the books at this time. Others are variants of interest and variants of high consequence, but as of now, no variants of high consequence have been identified.

"What we know about this Omicron -- why it's labeled a variant of concern is because of the number of changes that it has undergone, and in the rate that it had accumulated these changes; the speed at which these changes occurred," he offered. "That's what kind of surprised scientists and laboratorians."

Lesho said this one appears to be more transmissible in light of nearly 50 changes in this virus compared to preceding strains.

"It’s those number of changes or those mutations, that that are of concern. Additionally, it's where those mutations occur. So, this whole genome sequencing that I mentioned looks at the entire genetic makeup of an organism. And so that enables us to look at which parts of it have these changes," he said. "Of those 50 changes, maybe 30 or so are in the area that the vaccine uses to instruct our bodies to make the protective antibodies. So that's why it's concerning."

In any event, the doctor said that getting vaccinated -- including the booster shot at least six months after the primary series -- "still, is the best way we can protect ourselves ..."

Other points addressed by Lesho today are as follows:

VACCINATION AND VARIANTS

While vaccines provide the most protection -- apart from natural immunity from having the virus plus vaccination -- Lesho said vaccination rates globally are relatively low.

"Not many countries have been as fortunate as developed countries, such as Israel, United States ... United Kingdom," he said. "Countries in Africa have vaccination rates as low as 20 percent ... and there's potentially only 70 percent of the people in the United States that are vaccinated.

"So, what they're learning is when they talk about herd immunity -- when you get through about 70 percent of the population being immune to help the epidemic or the pandemic stop spreading, maybe we're seeing with these higher transmissible variants like Delta and this one, it may be more upwards of 80 or 85 percent, Still, the way we can prevent these new mutations and these new variants from emerging is to get as many people in the population as immune as possible."

AS WINTER APPROACHES

Lesho had a sobering message as the cold and flu season arrives and as COVID-19 cases increase: "Well, what we can expect is, unfortunately, increased fatalities."

"We are already seeing increased number of patients in the hospital and also in the ICU. And on ventilators now. So we've been seeing that unfortunate uptick for a few weeks now. So, generally, two weeks after that you have more seriousness of infections, then you start to see the fatalities. So, I think in the next couple of weeks, we'll see some fatalities."

He said that eight or nine out of 10 patients with severe risk of infections were unvaccinated.

"Now, we're seeing some breakthrough (those previously vaccinated) infections there. For the most part, for the vast majority of the breakthrough infections are not as severe as the infections in the unvaccinated. So, we can also expect more cases as people go indoors, and they gather. And then as people go to holiday gatherings."

LEVEL OF OMICRON SYMPTOMS

Lesho said Omicron symptoms are similar to previous variants.

"If you're fully vaccinated or you got an infection and then you got vaccinated, you might have very minimal symptoms and you might test positive for various reasons," he said, "So, but you could have -- it starts out typically as a loss of taste plus smell and like a fever, nausea ... COVID can present in many different ways. It can present as a gastrointestinal illness or a respiratory illness. So, the typical symptoms of the prior strains are what we expect this to present as well."

Photo courtesy of WHEC-TV.

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