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Genesee County Health Department

April 8, 2021 - 12:28pm

Press release:

As of April 6, individuals 16 years and older can now receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

Genesee County health officials pointed out that the Pfizer vaccine is currently the only shot authorized for those 16 and 17 years old. Pfizer is a two-series dose, 21 days apart (three weeks). The Moderna vaccination also is a two-series dose, 28 days apart (four weeks), and is recommended for people aged 18 and older. It also is important to remember that youth under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

“Following the announcement from last week that anyone 30 years and older is eligible for a vaccination with this announcement is an extremely positive development as it means we are starting to see a steady supply of the vaccine,” said Genesee County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein.

“The County is going to be utilizing various ways to get the word out to these age groups about the importance of getting vaccinated, including our social media channels. We also encourage parents and guardians and others in the community to not only get their vaccination, but also encourage those in these younger age groups to get their shots.”

Genesee County health officials also reminded residents that if they get a vaccine, then the person must be able to return for the second dose for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccination after the first dose. That appointment is scheduled immediately after vaccination and the shot will be administered at the same location of the initial vaccination.

To see a list of vaccination clinics and availabilities in Genesee and Orleans Counties please visit this website.

It’s important that residents in these age groups get vaccinated as they are currently comprising a higher percentage of our current infection rates,” said Genesee County Public Health Director Paul Pettit.

“These age groups also are more socially active and as we begin to see restrictions on gatherings becoming more relaxed, the likelihood that infection rates among these age groups will continue to increase. That is why we must continue to be vigilant in preventing the spread by wearing a mask, adhering to social distancing and practicing good hygiene.”

January 25, 2021 - 4:35pm

Press release:

Genesee and Orleans counties continue to work diligently to distribute the limited supply of vaccine received in their continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were hoping to receive 2,500 doses of the vaccine between Genesee and Orleans counties but were made aware that is not going to occur because of the statewide shortage,” said Paul Pettit, director of the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments.

“We realize that those who hoped to schedule appointments this week are going to be very upset as well and we are disappointed to have to give them this news.”

The state(wide) allocations were the same as the week before (250,000), the county health departments (Genesee and Orleans) are only receiving 300 doses total between the two this week, which will be utilized for 1B essential workers per the state’s directive.

Those over age 65 should continue to seek vaccine from their providers, pharmacies and the state sites. Appointments for vaccine are currently online ONLY.

Last week the county-run clinics were able administer approximately 1,050 doses.

“At GCC on Friday alone, we were able to administer approximately 550 doses of the vaccine in a seamless fashion. On average, people got theirshots and were able to leave the testing sites within 20 minutes,” said Matt Landers, Genesee County manager.

“As a result of our experience inoperating the COVID19 testing sites, our workforce and community volunteers have been able to replicate this into a smooth operation at the vaccination siteswhen vaccine supplies are readily available.”

We ask those who are 65 and older, part of Priority Group 1B, to continue to check the clinic schedules and as requested by the state, to use the pharmacy links. Pharmacies and other sites that are part of the “retail network” are workingto provide vaccine to the 65 and older population as they receive vaccine.

How the pharmacies set up their appointments are determined by the pharmacies and the state. The local Health Departments or OFAs do not have insight on how pharmacy clinics are run.

Keep checking the site links as many of the pharmacies may not have received vaccine.

If you do not have a computer/internet access, please contact your Office for the Aging for assistance. For Genesee County call (585) 813-2457 between 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and for Orleans County call (585) 589-3191 between 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and they will assist you as best as they can.

Please check the following links:

For clinic schedules when vaccine is available and information about vaccination clinics:

http://bit.ly/39bfElNGOHealthVaccine, please note the registration links are subject to change and will be updated.

For the NYS-run vaccine clinics: https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/

Clinics are only open when there is vaccine available. You currently can only register for an appointment online.

Each provider is responsible for their own registration and set-up, the Health Departments are only responsible for the clinics they sponsor. Please do not call the host sites for the County Vaccination Clinics...they are only providing the space and cannot assist with registration or questions.

You must return to the provider where you initially got your first shot, for your second shot. You must also get the same vaccine brand as your first shot. The appointment is to be made for you while you are there for your first shot.

December 8, 2020 - 12:52pm

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” have taken on a new meaning for Batavia City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr., who has had to make the difficult decision of implementing 100-percent virtual learning at all four district buildings prior to the holiday break.

“I think these 12 school days off (Dec. 7-22) will allow us to get a little bit of the staff back and hopefully limit the number of people needing to quarantine since there are no kids in the building and there are no additional staff members needing to congregate or walk by each other or be in the same place,” Soler said today. “We should be able to have our staffing back to the levels that they need to be to and be able to reopen Jan. 4.”

Soler said that the inability to adequately staff the classrooms drove him to shut the schools down, adding that 81 teachers, aides and other employees have had to quarantine since the start of the school year.

“The issue is not so much students, it’s the staff members,” he said. “If a teacher has to quarantine at home for 14 days, then I need another adult to cover the class for the in-person kids because the teacher is now home. It makes it extremely hard knowing that we already struggle with the substitute teachers, so it also makes it hard to deliver a quality program. We gratefully have some of our teachers who are willing to tele-work, but we still needed another adult to supervise the kids in front of them.”

The superintendent said he was not under any statewide pressure to enforce all distance learning, but pointed to a couple variables – the rolling seven-day average for positive cases in Genesee County at around 8 percent and the daily calls from students and staff needing to quarantine.

He said that 21 staff members and 21 students have tested positive “and every single one of those positives results in a group of people that have to quarantine for 14 days.”

“It becomes unmanageable and we’re at a breaking point. Definitely 50 percent of our buildings would have been significantly impacted,” he said. “By having kids home, we wouldn't have to worry about substitute coverage and teachers could still teach remotely during these next 12 days.”

Soler said that most students will miss five in-person days (due to a schedule that features a mix of in-person and remote learning).

“That was a heartbreaking thing because we prided ourselves on being able to offer at least some in-person learning to our students, unlike other communities that have been shut down all year,” he offered.

He also mentioned that people continue to gather socially, which makes it even tougher to provide in-person learning.

“As we work with the Genesee County Health Department on contact tracing, we find out that people did go to somebody’s house for Thanksgiving or kids did have a sleepover at someone’s house,” he said. “We know these things are occurring, unfortunately, but when they do occur, they come back into the building and make it hard for us to staff the building.”

Only about 20 students – those who have special needs -- are being allowed in school buildings, he said.

Soler said he believes strongly that Gov. Andrew Cuomo should classify school personnel as “essential workers.”

“If the governor were to label all school staff members as essential employees then they wouldn’t need to quarantine if they don’t have any symptoms. We’d really like to see that rule changed because then we could have had in-person learning – keep school open,” he said. “We should be able to designate them as essential and not make them quarantine if they don’t have any symptoms. As it stands now, that seems pretty harsh.”

He said Cuomo has said on multiple occasions that schools are the safest place … “so why not give us some additional leverage and leeway with the guidelines?”

Soler said he expects that the buildings will reopen on Jan. 4 unless there is a resurgence and the governor deems otherwise.

“Right now, we’re working on increasing the number of parents to give us consent to do the Binax rapid testing in school in case that is required for us to stay open,” he said. “And we’re also focusing on delivering a high-quality virtual experience for the next 12 days.”

November 19, 2020 - 4:03pm

From Derek Geib, owner of Bourbon & Burger Co.:

The purpose of this is to add to the vague press release about Bourbon & Burger Co. by the Genesee County Health Department and to clear up any misinformation that is out there.

First of all, we are open and we plan to be for many years to come.

Second, the individual reported was not in the building after receiving a positive test result.

Third, there is no concrete proof that the individual was positive while in the building.

The person reported a headache on Nov. 8, was here Nov. 9, and received a positive test result Nov. 11 -- a full 48 hours after being in the building.

Fourth, no one in Bourbon & Burger during the dates in the press release has been placed on mandatory quarantine, nor have they been told by the Health Department that they needed to get tested.

These are the facts.

We will tell you what the Health Department isn’t telling you but should be -- COVID-19 IS EVERYWHERE. What they also know is it is in the big box stores, the chains and the fast-food restaurants. It is not confined to your four hometown restaurants as it may seem from their press releases.

You should be practicing caution everywhere and monitoring your symptoms no matter where you’ve been.

We have served thousands of you since this pandemic began without incident, we are following every protocol and guideline that is out there to keep everyone safe. The government has turned its back on our industry, we can’t afford for our community to do so as well because of misinforming press releases.

This industry is barely hanging on and all of Batavia's restaurants need you now more than ever. The only way we all make it though this is together.

October 27, 2020 - 12:57pm

Public Health Column from the county health department:

Oct. 25th – 31st is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, which is a time when families, community organizations, and local governments join efforts in the fight against lead poisoning in their communities.

Lead poisoning in children can lead to hyperactivity, reduced cognitive (thinking) ability, and other permanent, negative health effects. One of the goals of the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health) is to spread awareness of this public health issue and to increase lead poisoning prevention throughout our communities.

Paul Pettit, Public Health director of Genesee and Orleans counties, declares that “Lead poisoning can be prevented! The key is to keep children from coming in contact with lead. Take time this week to learn about ways to reduce your child’s exposure to lead in their environment and prevent its serious health effects.”

This year, the Center for Disease Control has compiled three themes for National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week:

  • (1.) Get the facts: Most childhood lead poisoning occurs when children swallow or inhale dust containing lead, often from lead-based paint which was commonly used throughout homes until 1978. Children ingest (eat) lead when they put their hands or other dust-covered objects, such as toys, in their mouth, eat paint chips or soil contaminated with lead, and inhale lead dust, particularly during home renovations or other paint disturbances.
  • (2.) Get your home evaluated: Although the use of lead was banned from products such as paint since 1978, many homes in our communities still have remnants of old lead paint in them. Old, chipping paint, particularly around window sills, door frames, banisters and porches pose a serious health risk, especially in young children who tend to spend most of their time crawling or playing on the floor.
  • (3.) Get your child tested: A blood test is the only way to discover if your child has been exposed to lead resulting in a detectable blood lead level. New York State requires that health care providers test all children for lead at age 1 and again at age 2. Health care providers are required to ask parents/guardians about theirchild’s exposure to potential lead hazards up until 6 years old. If there is any suspected exposure in that time frame, another blood lead test may need to be administered.

In New York State, the goal is to have 80 percent of children tested for lead at these ages. Local data shows that the screening rates among children in Genesee, Orleans, and Wyoming Counties fell below the State goal in 2019. Lead testing and early detection can prevent long-term health problems for your child and their future. Make sure to talk to yourchild’s doctor about lead screening at their next appointment!

Funding may be available to help make your home lead safe. In January 2020, the Genesee County Health Department (on behalf of GO Health) received a $1.3M federal HUD grant to address lead-based paint hazards in homes and rentals throughout the City of Batavia and the Village of Albion, including installation of replacement windows, paint, siding, and other home repairs. Specifically, the grant targets low-income households with children under the age of 6; this includes homeowners and landlords with low-income tenants.

Recently, Genesee County was able to revise the grant target area to include all areas within Genesee and Orleans Counties, making potential grant funding available to qualified applicants throughout both counties.

“Lead hazards exist in older homes all over Genesee and Orleans Counties. We want every eligible resident to have a chance to apply for these funds, and we’re prepared to help them through the process,” said Darren Brodie, Lead Program coordinator for Genesee and Orleans counties.

For those who don’t know whether they qualify as low-income, as defined by HUD, the information can be found online or by contacting the Health Department directly. This target area expansion is expected to go into effect next month, and the Health Department is currently accepting applications countywide for both Genesee and Orleans in anticipation of the expansion.

For more information on the GO Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes Program, National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, or for general information on lead hazards and the negative effects of lead poisoning, call the Genesee County Health Department at (585) 344-2580, ext. 5507, or email.

Lead hazards in the home won’t go away on their own. Lead poisoning prevention starts with YOU!

For more information contact the Genesee County Health Department at: 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website.

September 2, 2020 - 7:33pm

Every bit of funding helps when it comes to testing positive cases of COVID-19 and those who may have come in contact with those individuals, especially considering the cost of testing.

At today’s Genesee County Legislature Ways & Means Committee, lawmakers accepted a $6,785 grant from the New York State Association of County Health Officials for test kits and lab-testing expenses.

Genesee County Public Health Director Paul Pettit said his agency does limited testing “when we have positive cases and follow up testing with direct contacts of those cases.”

The health department conducts nasopharyngeal swab testing, a deep nasal process that uses the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing protocol.

With each test costing around $100, this funding can go a long way, Pettit said.

“The mini-grant we were just awarded will be used to provide kits and funding for our cases and contacts," he said. "Prices for testing vary considerably depending on the type of test and lab running the sample."

Pettit said that turnaround time can be an issue, too, as the common NP-PCR test currently averages four to 10 days for the result to come back, depending upon the location of the lab.

He said that lag could change as point-of-care tests are “just starting to come on line and will hopefully be available across the state soon. These tests provide results within 10 to 15 minutes and are significantly cheaper than PCR testing.”

The health department doesn’t offer general community testing, but acts as an advocate with other agencies to increase state-sponsored testing in Genesee and Orleans counties.

“This has been and remains a significant issue that needs to be addressed for all rural counties,” Pettit said.

In a related development, the health department contracted with ACM Global Laboratory of Rochester to analyze COVID samples and to bill insurance companies for lab testing performed on behalf of Genesee County. The pact runs through March 17.

In other action, the committee approved the following resolutions:

  • Adoption of a $170,218 budget for the 2021 Genesee County STOP-DWI plan – an increase of about $5,000 from the 2020 budget but $73,000 less than requested by law enforcement and other agencies that benefit from the program.

All STOP-DWI activities are funded completely from fine collections and have no impact upon the county’s general fund.

County Manager Matt Landers said there has been a significant decline in drunk/drugged driving arrests in 2020, primarily due to the coronavirus. He is projecting 145 such arrests for 2020, compared to more than 200 in a typical year.

“There are less people on the road … less festivals and carnivals where people would be (drinking) and driving,” he offered.

Departments that receive STOP-DWI funds include Genesee County Sheriff, City of Batavia Police and Le Roy Police (with half of the funding going to those three agencies), as well as District Attorney, Genesee Justice, Probation, City/County Youth Bureau and Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. Money also is allocated for administration costs.

  • Creation of a mental health clinical therapist position to replace a mental health clinic social worker position, a move that would expand the candidate pool, according to Mental Health Director Lynda Battaglia.

The title change, effective Sept. 10, will allow the department to hire therapists who hold degrees in areas other than social work, Battaglia said, and will have no financial impact as both civil service jobs are at the same grade level.

  • Amendment of the Office for the Aging budget to accept $117,708 in funding from several sources to support the COVID-19 public health emergency by enabling the agency to purchase home-delivered meals, groceries and other supplies for homebound seniors.

Funding sources include the Federal Stimulus Packages Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Cares Act Nutritional Services, Supportive Services, Caregiver Support and New York Connects.

  • Acceptance of a $32,360 grant from the state Health Department’s Bureau of Community Environmental Health and Food Protection to support the county’s efforts to make sure businesses aren’t selling tobacco products to persons under the age of 21.

The renewal of funding for the county’s tobacco enforcement contract runs from April 1 of this year through March 31.

Pettit reported that tobacco use among youth has decreased, but vaping usage has increased.

July 29, 2020 - 11:57am

As he prepares to become the next Genesee County manager, Matthew Landers said he considered it a priority to appoint someone with a track record of exceptional job performance to replace him as the tammi_ferringer_1.jpgassistant county manager.

That’s why he moved quickly to offer the position to Tammi Ferringer, a Genesee County employee since 2005 who has served as the municipality’s compliance officer since September of last year.

Both Landers and Ferringer will begin their new assignments on Aug. 15, the day after County Manager Jay Gsell retires after 27 years at the helm.

“I have had the opportunity to closely view Tammi’s work the past year as the compliance officer and have been impressed with the efficient and accurate manner in which she does her job,” Landers said. “During this pandemic, she continued to shine by taking on whatever project was tossed her way and was able to carry it to completion with little guidance.”

Landers also spoke highly of Ferringer’s work that began in the mid-2000s as senior financial clerk-typist and then as a supervisor and administrative officer/budget officer at the County Health Department.

“(I recall that) rather abruptly, the two highest ranking positions in the department left county government, leaving a large financial/administrative hole that needed to be filled,” Landers said. “Being in the treasurer’s office at the time, I can remember wondering how all of the financial/budgetary administrative work was going to get done.”

He said that “without missing a beat,” Ferringer stepped up and filled the gap until the other positions were filled.

“Many others could have simply said that work is outside of my title, or it isn’t my responsibility, but Tammi jumped right in and made a significant difference,” Landers said.

Ferringer, a 1997 Batavia High School graduate, said she has always taken a proactive approach when it comes to getting the job done.

“I remember when that happened it was a sign for Matt and I to take over the state aid piece (at the Health Department). So, we got some training in Utica, figured things out and just ran with it,” she said. “It doesn’t bother me working outside of a title.”

After about nine years at the Health Department at County Building 2 on West Main Street Road, she moved to the other side of town, accepting the director of fiscal operations and child support position at the Department of Social Services on East Main Street Road.

“I really enjoyed working at the Health Department, but the opportunity at DSS came with a significant pay increase and I realized that unless I went back for my master’s degree, I had hit my peak there,” said Ferringer, who earned an associate degree in Business Administration from Genesee Community College and a bachelor’s degree in Business Finance from Brockport State College.

Hired by former Social Services Commissioner Eileen Kirkpatrick, Ferringer’s knowledge and ability served her well at DSS, and opened the door for her to become the county compliance officer.

“In June of 2019, Matt reached out and offered me the county compliance officer position. I wasn’t looking for a new job, but when the county manager’s office calls ... I figured there would be room for growth,” she said.

Landers said Ferringer has “continually exceeded expectations in her different roles in the county, leading to a series of promotions and advancements. Her unique skill sets in both finance and compliance make Tammi a great fit for the needs of the assistant county manager position.”

In her new role (working out of the Old County Courthouse downtown), Ferringer will assist with budget preparation and monitoring duties, oversee the STOP-DWI program and the county workers’ compensation program that includes virtually all of the towns, villages and school districts in the county, Landers said.

“She will also cover a variety of compliance responsibilities, including the County’s ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) coordinator, the fair housing officer and privacy officer, to just name some of the compliance hats,” he said.

Landers said that Ferringer also will lead the county’s shared services initiative and coordinate its safety plan and monthly safety meetings.

“These are just some of the assigned duties. There will be countless projects and issues that arise during the normal course of government that Tammi will plan a critical role in solving and completing,” Landers added.

Ferringer joked that Landers already has begun “transitioning some of the duties and he’s been smiling all along the way.”

Salary for the position currently is at $85,000.

A Town of Batavia resident, Ferringer represents the town on the Genesee County Youth Board and also serves on the Genesee Area Family YMCA Board of Directors.

She has two children, Jacelyn, 20, an employee at Richmond Memorial Library, and Caleb, 13, who will be entering Batavia High School this fall.

July 9, 2020 - 2:26pm

Voluntary Water Conservation Notice from the Genesee County Health Department:

All residents served by the Genesee County countywide Public Water Supply (GCPWS) are requested by the GCPWS and the Genesee County Department of Health to conserve water.

According to the local weather forecast, Genesee County is expected to endure at least three more days of excessive heat and humidity. It is expected that very high levels of water consumption will continue throughout this period.

To avoid an emergency situation, all residents served by the GCPWS water system are asked to do their part to conserve water. Guidelines to save water include:

  1. Avoid filling swimming pools.

  2. Avoid watering lawns and washing cars.

  3. Use your automatic dishwasher only for full loads.

  4. Use your automatic washing machine only for full loads.

  5. If you wash your dishes by hand, do not leave the water running for rinsing.

  6. Keep a bottle of drinking water in the refrigerator to keep it cool instead of running the water.

  7. Check faucets and pipes for leaks. Leaks waste water 24 hours a day, seven days a week and often can be repaired with an inexpensive washer.

  8. Check your toilets for leaks. To test for leaks, add a small amount of food coloring to the toilet tank. If, without flushing, the color begins to appear in the bowl, you have a leak that should be repaired immediately.

  9. Take shorter showers. Long showers can waste five to 10 gallons every extra minute.

  10. Install water-saving showerheads or flow restrictors. Area hardware or plumbing supply stores stock inexpensive water-saving showerheads or restrictors that are easy to install.

    We need your help. If voluntary conservation measures are unsuccessful, mandatory water conservation may be enforced. Questions may be directed to the Genesee County Department of Health.

  11. The Genesee County Department of Health can be reached at (585) 344-2580, ext. 5555 or:  [email protected]

June 11, 2020 - 2:55pm

Health Update from the Genesee County Health Department:

The Genesee County Health Department received notification that a Genesee County resident who attended the “March for Justice” event on Sunday, June 7th, in Batavia has tested positive for COVID-19.

The individual did not know they were positive prior to attending the event but exhibited symptoms associated to COVID-19 at the event.

The individual reported to have been wearing a mask the entire time they were at the event from approximately 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Currently three close contacts have been placed under mandatory quarantine in Genesee County and two additional close contacts reside outside of the county.

“Although the warmer weather is here, COVID-19 is still very much in ourcommunities” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health director of Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments.

“We must continue to take actionsto decrease the spread of the virus by wearing masks, practicing social distancing, washing hands regularly for 20 seconds with soap and water, and avoiding large crowds such as social events and parties.”

Pettit also mentioned that an increase in cases may slow down the reopening of businesses in our region.

“Our region must maintain a set of metrics in order to continue the phased reopening in our region," Pettit said. "If we see a spike in cases or hospitalizations, the reopening process will either be delayed or stopped depending on the metrics.”

Click here to view the NYS COVID-19 Regional Metrics Dashboard.

Although the exposure risk is low, anyone who attended the “March for Justice” is encouraged to monitor their symptoms for 14 days from the event until June 21st.

If symptoms develop, contact your primary care provider or click here to find a testing site near you.

Governor Cuomo is also urging all people who attended a protest or rally to get a COVID-19 test (please click the link above to find a testing site near you).

Symptoms of COVID-19 may include: a fever of 100.4 or greater, fatigue, loss of taste and and/or smell, headache, cough or difficulty breathing, sore throat, congestion, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Health Updates provide new or updated information on an incident or situation; can also provide information to update a previously sent Health Alert, Health Advisory, or Health Guidance; unlikely to require immediate action.

May 5, 2020 - 9:37am

The local public health director on Monday said he is a bit wary about how Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s regional approach to reopening the economy will affect Genesee County.

“I do have some concerns around the regional approach here as we’re going to be able to move forward and (or) get stuck on pause based on what our entire region (Finger Lakes) does, and if you look at the metrics, it’s going to be driven by data,” said Paul Pettit, director of the Genesee and Orleans Health Departments.

Speaking at the Human Services Committee meeting of the Genesee County Legislature, Pettit said the region is “lining up a little bit more now” with the hospitalization rates that are part of the equation leading toward increased business activity.

“It’s based on 100,000 residents, so look at our Finger Lakes Region,” he said. “I think we’re around 1.3 million, maybe a little less, and we have to meet certain data points.”

On Monday, the governor stated that the Finger Lakes Region meets five of the seven metrics needed to reopen safely: decline in hospitalizations; decline in hospital deaths; new hospitalizations; percentage of hospital beds available; and percentage of ICU beds available.

The region does not meet requirements dealing with the number of residents tested monthly and the number of contract tracers, the governor said.

Pettit acknowledged that the governor's latest press conference provided more clarity in his four-phase approach to reopening by sharing the “different metrics we need to go through in order to progress.”

“We’ve been asking for weeks now exactly what this is going to look like, so it’s starting to shape up a little bit,” he said.

He said the county’s plan is to send information to businesses and other organizations with some guidance so, “hopefully when we get to Phase 1 here and we get to launch on May 15th – which we’re optimistic will happen – all of our essential businesses that will be added in, mainly around construction, manufacturing and some retailers, etc., will be ready to go.”

County Manager Jay Gsell indicated that the Finger Lakes Region is one of the five regions that on May 15th will be able to enter Phase 1.

“If our metrics and our data still continue to look positive, we should be able to look at the phasing of reopening of the Finger Lakes Region, which Genesee County is part of. That’s one small sliver of good news, at least this afternoon around 4:25,” he said.

Pettit was asked about antibody testing in Genesee County, and said that it is not widely available in this region.

“Unfortunately, just like the testing, we seem to be lagging behind,” he said. “We are getting some results in from antibody testing. We have not had anybody as of last Friday that had shown they had antibodies. There are some Genesee County residents that have been tested (for antibodies) at random sites the state has or health care workers.”

He said antibody testing reveals a “level of exposure to the virus … helping us understand how much of our community has been exposed, but it doesn’t really tell us much beyond that about protection and immunity … it’s still too new.”

The Human Services Committee passed a resolution accepting an additional $4,726 in funding from the New York Department of Health to cover increased workload costs in connection with early intervention administration as it pertains to referrals of children showing signs of lead poisoning.

In other developments, the committee voted in favor of four contracts pertaining to the Office for the Aging:

-- Increasing the amount of an agreement with ARC of Genesee Orleans by $40,000 for meal service preparation as demand has risen due to COVID-19. The original amount for the period of July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020 was $223,927.

Office for the Aging Director Diana Fox said the additional expense is covered by federal stimulus funds and other funding streams that were directed to the agency. She also said that serving congregate meals has given way to home-delivered meals at this time.

-- Extending an agreement with the National Council on Aging Inc., to provide Aging in Mastery Program sessions through the end of the year -- beyond the previously approved May 2020.

The program offers interactive classes for adults 55 and older that promote behaviors that improve health, economic security, self-esteem and social activity.

-- Renewing a RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) grant of $47,500 through March 31, 2021 from the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The grant, which was included in the 2020 county budget, enables the agency to utilize the network of local volunteers to assist older citizens in various areas, including coping skills, veterans’ support, environmental stewardship, reducing food insecurity, emergency preparedness and opioid awareness.

-- Renewing a contract with Willcare Inc., to oversee consumer-directed in-home services from June 1, 2020 through May 31, 2021 at hourly rates ranging from $20.51 to $23.11 per hour, for a total not to exceed $25,792 for the specified year.

Under this plan, the control of homecare services is shifted from homecare agencies – which in many cases are unable to accommodate all requests -- to the consumer (or representative) for budgeting, care planning, decision-making and arranging for services and staffing.

March 16, 2020 - 6:24pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, covid-19, Genesee County Health Department.


Calling the COVID-19 pandemic an “unprecedented and rapidly evolving event,” the public health director of the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments this afternoon reported that while there are no confirmed cases of the virus in either county, local officials are ramping up efforts to gather testing kits and to set up drive-thru screening sites.

Speaking at a media briefing at the Old County Courthouse in Batavia, Paul A. Pettit (inset photo below, left) said seven people in Genesee County are under a “precautionary” quarantine and three people in Orleans County are under “mandatory” quarantine – steps that are taken to monitor their conditions over a 14-day period and to make sure they do not get symptoms associated with the virus, such as fever, cough and shortness of breath.

“This is an unprecedented event and were responding as it has been evolving,” Pettit said, as he was joined by several other county officials during the 40-minute session. “Our public health staff has been working around the clock … with the goal for our residents to make sound, wise choices. The brainpower in this room is well situated to hand this storm together.”

Pettit said that contrary to rumors, no one in the two counties has come down with the virus – which he said has a fatality rate 10 times that of influenza – but that his department will be notified by hospitals should that occur. He also pointed residents to go to the health department’s website for accurate information.

He admitted that the health department currently has no “swabbing kits” for testing – “we’re working to get some,” he said – but they are available in the community (through primary care providers, for example).

Officials in both Genesee and Orleans have declared states of emergency, which will extend for a minimum of 30 days, Pettit said, and “have moved forward with the closing down of schools.”

He also mentioned Gov. Cuomo’s directive that restaurants, bars, casinos and other social and recreational venues would be required to close after 8 o'clock tonight, advising consumers that restaurants will be offering carry-out and take-out options.

Regarding testing for the virus, Pettit said that county leaders are looking to set up drive-through sites (specific locations have yet to be identified) to screen “the most vulnerable – seniors and those with immune-compromised health issues.”

“If you’re sick, stay home; that’s the best thing you can do,” he said. “Wash your hands frequently and (practice) social distancing. It is best to implement this before we have a case. Spread out and practice social distancing – even if it seems extreme and unnecessary. There’s no doubt in my mind that we can weather this thing together.”

Responding to a question about the difference between COVID-19 and the flu, Pettit said that it hits seniors and “compromised” folks very hard.

“The hardest hitting was in the Wuhan province (China) where 3 to 5 percent was the death rate,” he said. “That makes us nervous on the public health side.”

Pettit also said the virus can stay in the air for three hours and said it was important to wipe down countertops and door knobs as it can linger on surfaces for quite some time.

“We need to flatten the curve,” he said. “We want to push out the number of cases and slow it down” so it doesn’t overwhelm the health care system.

Tim Yaeger, coordinator of the Genesee County Office of Emergency Management Services, said that his agency along with the Orleans County office, will be supporting the health care system as “services need to be maintained.”

“You may see tempered responses,” he said, advising people to use the 9-1-1 system only if it’s a true emergency.

Genesee County Clerk Michael Cianfrini said he is putting measures in place to limit the number of people looking to complete transactions at the Department of Motor Vehicles office in Batavia.

“We’re very short-staffed as it is, with only two cashiers and one trainee,” he said, “and we had lines out the doors, which goes against all advice we have said regarding social distancing and it exposes our staff.”

Cianfrini said as of tomorrow, less than 10 people will be allowed in the DMV lobby at one time – the overflow will have to wait outside – and that a sheriff’s deputy will be there to monitor the situation.

“Unless it is absolutely necessary, don’t come into the office,” he said. “My main concern is the safety and health of my staff.”

Batavia City Manager Martin Moore said the City Clerk’s office will be “closed (for walk-ins) for the foreseeable future” and advised people to use the telephone or go online.

“Most people are very good and are stepping up, but a few have been coughing and hacking,” he said. “So out of caution for the employees, the door will be locked if you try to come in that door.”

He also said the protocol will be modified for those attempting to enter the police station and that Falleti Ice Arena will be closing today, also for the foreseeable future.

Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell said that although Genesee County Park in Bethany and the DeWitt Recreation Area in Batavia will be closed, he and his staff are committed to maintaining the county workforce’s “semblance of continuity going forward.”

Gsell said press updates will take place at 4 p.m. at the Old County Courthouse from Monday through Friday until circumstances warrant otherwise.

For more about the COVID-19 pandemic, call 1-888-364-3065 (NYS hotline). Those experiencing anxiety or mental health issues due to the crisis are advised to call 585-283-5200.

Top photo -- Genesee County Sheriff William Sheron, County Clerk Michael Cianfrini, City Manager Martin Moore, County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein, Public Health Director Paul Pettit, Orleans County Emergency Management Director Dale Banker, Genesee County Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Yaeger. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

March 14, 2020 - 1:38pm

“There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Genesee and Orleans counties,” said Paul Pettit, director of Genesee & OrleansCounties Departments of Health.

“While the risk of community transmission is currently low, things are rapidly evolving with this outbreak. In response, our departments are proactively taking actions to safeguard our communities.”

The Health Departments are aware of a second positive case of COVID-19 in Monroe County.

“We continue to encourage social distancing where people avoid gathering in public places, limit contact with others; stay home if you are sick; if you are older and/or are immunocompromised with underlying health conditions stay home,” Pettit said.

COVID-19 may cause symptoms including:

  • Cough

  • Fever

  • Trouble breathing

  • Pneumonia

“It is important to remain calm and focus on trusted, accurate information listed below,” Pettit said. “We understand everyone wants to be updated but want to make sure the information is factual.”

The Health Department will provide updates as appropriate.

For more information about prevention, the state health department has an information call center for questions and answers about travel and symptoms regarding COVID-19. The number is 1-888-364-3065.

Or you can visit the following websites:

February 27, 2020 - 12:38pm

Press release:

As you try to make the most of your dollar, the county Weights & Measures Department is there to make sure you’re getting what you pay for. W&M acts as financial protection for both the buyer and the seller, ensuring fair transactions for all parties involved.

We celebrate these relationships during the first week of March, National Weights & Measures Week.

The Genesee County Weights & Measures Department tests devices used in your day-to-day activities; including devices at gas stations, grocery stores, delis, bakeries, produce stands, and laundromats to name a few.

Last year, 705 devices were tested in Genesee County.

Of those, 85.42 percent initially tested correct. When a device is found incorrect and in the stores favor, the Director orders the device repaired. The business cannot use that device until the correction has been retested and inspected by a W&M inspector.

The Department is also responsible for testing the quality of the fuel sold in the county, this effort is 100 percent reimbursed by New York State. Locally, there were zero octane/cetane failures in 2019.

The Genesee County Health Department is on the forefront when it comes to shared services, in our case, with Orleans County; a joint effort to better serve both communities.

Starting in January 2019, the counties agreed to fully combine the two Weights & Measures departments. This collaboration has created a safer and healthier environment for all residences as well as visitors to the area.

Between the two counties, the agreement has estimated savings of $54,290 in its initial year.

“Rarely does a costs saving result in better and more efficient services for the community, but this arrangement does exactly that," said Ronald P. Mannella, director of Weights & Measures for Genesee – Orleans County Departments of Health (GO Health). "We have figured it out. This department will continue to explore ways of stretching our taxpayer dollars."

Paul A. Pettit, Public Health director, said "This latest integrated approach to working across county lines and sharing services is another great example of how we can enhance benefits for our residents while reducing county costs.”

With support from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Genesee - Orleans and the surrounding counties are cracking down on credit card skimmers and those responsible.

W&M inspectors perform random sweeps of fuel stations looking for these fraudulent devices. Arrests have been made. Know that New York will not tolerate these criminal acts.

If you have suspicious credit card activity, call your bank immediately.

When shopping, look for the official seal. These seals indicate the device has been tested and passed inspection by a Weights & Measures inspector.

If you believe the device is incorrect, simply point your smartphone at the QR Code on the seal and you will be prompted to our department website. Once there, you are quickly able to report a complaint. This office will continue to accept phone calls and emails.

For information about Genesee CountyHealth Department services contact:

  • Genesee County Health Department at: 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit the website here.
December 20, 2019 - 11:49am

Above, Tammi Bale, who operates the “Just Socks, Ma” Campaign.

Submitted photo and press release:

There is currently no vaccine available to prevent hepatitis C, but early diagnosis of hepatitis C is important as it can prevent serious liver problems. Approximately 3.2 million people in the United States. have chronic hepatitis C, but most do not know that they are infected. This is exactly why testing is so important!

Hepatitis C is primarily spread through contact with blood from an infected person, even in amounts too small to see. People with hepatitis C often have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they can be a sign of advanced liver disease (such as cirrhosis or scarring of the liver).

“Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer and the leading cause of liver transplants,” said Deputy Director Brenden Bedard of Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments. New treatments for hepatitis C are available and more are in development.

"Today, chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) is usually curable with oral medications taken every day for two to six months. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, "The homeless population is disproportionately impacted by HCV infection, with an estimated prevalence of 22 to 53 percent (affected)."

Hepatitis C Testing is recommended if you:

  • Were born from 1945 through 1965;
  • Injected drugs
  • Received donated blood or organs before 1992
  • Have been exposed to blood on the job through a needle stick injury with a sharp object
  • Or have medical conditions, such as chronic liver disease or HIV/AIDS.

To increase awareness about Hepatitis C, the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments are donating socks to Tammi Bale, who operates the “Just Socks, Ma” Campaign, collecting socks to donate to those in need in memory of her son Robert Bale who passed away of a drug overdose in 2016.

“These socks read #NYCuresHepC and is a reminder to get tested and that a cure is available to those who need it," Bedard said. "It’s a small way to give back to the community this holiday season and increase a valuable message."

Referring to deaths caused by overdoses and hepatitis C, Bale said, “Not one more is needed. This is my third year collecting socks and donating them to the homeless in memory of Robert. I wasn’t able to help him because I didn’t know anything was wrong (substance use disorder). He had a good job, was working 50 hours a week and had just gotten a raise.

"No one knew his secret, not even his roommate. It’s good to try to find out what is happening in your child’s life so this doesn’t happen. This campaign makes me happy and hopefully make Robert proud.”

Bale is also giving back by operating a Facebook group named “Angel Mothers Unite” providing uplifting messages to those who need it.

For information about Health Department services contact the Genesee County Health Department at 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website.

September 28, 2019 - 10:40am

From the Genesee County Health Department:

Often times, you are poisoned by lead you can’t even see! According to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), children under 6 years old are more likely to be poisoned with lead than any other age group.

Lead is a metal that is harmful to both children and adults when it enters the body.

Most often, children are poisoned from breathing in or swallowing dust from old lead paint that gets on floors and windowsills, hands and toys.

Only a small amount of lead is needed to harm a child’s growth, behavior and ability to learn.

Most children poisoned by lead do not look or feel sick, so the only way to know for sure is to get tested.

New York State (NYS) law requires that every child must be tested for lead at the age one and again at the age two. Providers should also be assessing a child for risks of lead exposure regularly through age 6.

NYS has both the nation’s greatest number (3.3 million) and the highest percentage (43.1 percent) of housing stock built before 1950. Houses of this age are much more likely to contain lead paint, the leading cause of childhood lead poisoning.

Governor Cuomo’s 2019 budget is responding to this public health threat by lowering the acceptable blood lead level from 15 micrograms per deciliter of blood (µg/dl) to 5 µg/dl.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) took that step in 2012 and has since been enacted in several states, including, Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey and Vermont. These states made their decision to move to the lower CDC guidelines based on the evidence that supports early intervention as the primary way to prevent the serious health effects suffered by victims of lead poisoning.

“Effective Oct. 1st, a child whose blood lead level is 5 µg/dl or more will be contacted by their local health department who will help families identify sources of lead and create plans to remove it by conducting home inspections,” said Paul Pettit, Public Health director.

“Lowering the blood lead action level will increase home inspections greatly. The Genesee and Orleans County health departments are prepared for this change and have hired a lead coordinator to be dedicated to this workload for both counties.”

If a child's blood lead level is 5µg/dl or more, the health department nurse will report to Environmental Department. There will be an inspection done at the house by the Environmental Department from the local health department to check for lead exposure, and an educational prevention approach by the nurse from the local health department will be done with the family to decrease the lead level in the child’s bloodstream.

There are many sources of exposure according to the NYSOH. Subscribe to the Consumer Product Safety Commission to learn about consumer products recalled for lead violations.

Sources of Lead

  • Paint (older homes, old toys, furniture, crafts)
  • Air / Dust
  • Soil
  • Water (leaching of lead solder on plumbing)
  • Folk medicines and cosmetics
  • Children’s jewelry and toys
  • Workplace and hobbies
  • Lead-glazed ceramics; china; leaded crystal; and pewter
  • Imported candies or foods
  • Firearms with lead bullets
  • Foreign made mini-blinds
  • Car batteries and radiators

Lead can harm a young child’s growth, ability to learn and may be linked with tooth decay/cavities, hearing loss, behavior problems, even to the point that Early Intervention services are needed.

Early Intervention is the term used to describe services and support that are available to babies and young children and their families with developmental delay and disabilities.

Lead can also be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy. Although lead poisoning is preventable, it continues to be a major cause of the problem among children.

For more information about lead, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and Early Intervention Services visit:

For information about Health Department services contact:

  • Genesee County Health Department at: 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website.
June 14, 2019 - 6:45pm

From the Genesee County Health Department:

ALBANY -- The New York State Association of County Health Officials (NYSACHO) representing the 58 local health departments in New York State applauds and congratulates Governor Cuomo, the New York State Assembly and Senate for repealing certain provisions relating to non-medical exemptions from vaccination.

They voted in favor of Assembly bill A2371 and Senate bill 2994-A and we are grateful for the leadership of Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz and Senator Brad Hoylman, who sponsored this legislation in their respective houses, and were champions behind its passage.

Governor Cuomo took swift action to sign this bill into law immediately following its passage in both houses, demonstrating a monumental commitment to public health policy and eliminating vaccine preventable disease in New York State.

A number of communities in New York State are now facing the health consequences of non-medical exemptions from vaccinations. These exemptions, while well-intended, brought about a resurgence of preventable communicable diseases, resulting in numerous and ongoing transmission of diseases in our communities.

Decades of scientific research underpin the effectiveness and safety of vaccines. The passage of this bill will strengthen herd immunity thereby protecting those individuals, who for medical reasons, are unable to receive vaccinations.

“As public health professionals, and as policymakers, we routinely weigh the ethical balance of protecting individual rights against protecting our communities at large.” said Daniel J. Stapleton, NYSACHO president and Public Health director in Niagara County.

“Both statute and case law have continually upheld that the weight of this choice must lean towards protecting the community at large when personal choice puts the lives of others at risk.”

NYSACHO applauds New York State, for enacting this important public health policy into law, and in so doing will return us to a time where measles, and other vaccine-preventable diseases, are a footnote from the past and not a risk to our children’s and our futures.

April 1, 2019 - 2:11pm

Public health column from the Genesee & Orleans County Health Departments:

The Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming County Health Departments are encouraging county residents to “Think Health.” Taking time to think about your health and taking positive health steps will lead to healthier outcomes. Learning something new every day is one way to “Think Health”...

The first week of April is National Public Health Week (NPHW), a week set aside showing us how we can choose healthier living.

National Public Health Week started in April of 1995 by the American Public Health Association (APHA) with a focus on Public Health prevention topics. This year's theme is, “Creating the Healthiest Nation: For science. For action. For Health.”

The topics for each day are:

  • Monday, April 1st -- Healthy Communities: People's health, longevity and well-being are connected to their communities. Americans face many issues in their community such as being exposed to air pollution, lead, and even unsafe places to walk. Working with transportation planners to create safe walking and biking paths and organizing clinics for vaccines such as flu shots are all steps that can be taken to benefit people in the community and prevent preventable deaths. By making health a priority in policymaking we can help make a difference in communities.
  • Tuesday, April 2nd -- Violence Prevention: Violence is a significant public health problem in the United States, whether it is gun-related, rape, domestic abuse, suicide, or even child abuse. As public health professionals, it is part of our job to prevent acts of violence. This can be done through urging policy makers to inforce stricter gun laws, working with local colleges to help victims of sexual violence, and enforcing home visits to prevent child maltreatment. It is important to advocate community-driven solutions that target the source of where the violence is coming from that do not punish the community as a whole.
  • Wednesday, April 3rd -- Rural Health: Americans who live in rural communities have an increased risk of death from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory disease. There has also been a higher rate of suicide and opioid overdoses shown in rural communities. To improve rural community’s health it is important that we focus on social determinants that negatively impact health. By offering telemedicine, increasing job training opportunities and helping children achieve success academically; we can help improve the health of those living in rural populations.
  • Thursday, April 4th -- Technology and Public Health: Technology can be a powerful public health tool. It can be used to help educate and advocate communities, can help practitioners swap their best practices, can be used for GIS mapping, and can even be used as a text line to find out information about certain health topics. It is important that public health funding levels continue to be supported to allow workers to have access to the latest technology.
  • Friday, April 5th -- Climate Change: Climate change is seen as one of the greatest threats to public health. It can lead to natural disasters, impact food security, water and air quality, and even increase the risk of vector-borne diseases. Climate change is a real issue that has already begun to occur. Supporting policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, carpooling, and steering toward renewable, clean energies instead of fossil fuels can help make a difference in climate change and our health.
  • Saturday and Sunday, April 6th & 7th -- Global Health: America's health and the world's health are fundamentally connected. Consider that during the H1N1 flu pandemic, the virus quickly traveled around the world and a global effort was required to track its movements and eventually contain the disease. Across the world, communities still struggle with preventable and often-neglected diseases.The World Health Organization's (WHO) top 10 threats to global health include: pandemic flu, cholera, violent conflict, malaria, malnutrition and natural disasters.

Public Health covers a wide variety of topic areas. According to the WHO, public health refers to all organized measures (whether public or private) to prevent disease, promote health, and prolong life among the population as a whole. Its activities aim to provide conditions in which people can be healthy and focus on entire populations, not on individual patients or diseases. It is important to remember that most of public health is prevention!

“As you can see, public health isn’t just about being physically healthy,” said Paul Pettit, Genesee and Orleans County Public Health director, “it includes the health of the whole body and mind, as well ascommunity resiliency, and the safety of the environment we live, work and play in.

"The Health Departments’are moving into the role of Chief Health Strategists, we want to embrace and encourage our communities to work with us to create new and innovative ways to improve health, so please reach out.”

The benefits of prevention are undeniable. For example, public health is credited with adding 25 years to life expectancy of people in the United States.

“Promoting public health in community development, local businesses and through community events will help us move toward being the healthiest counties in New York State,” said Dr. Gregory Collins, commissioner of Wyoming County Public Health.

What can you do throughout the year to encourage better health in your home, neighborhood, work place and county?

For information about this article or health department services contact, Genesee County Health Department at: 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website here.

March 24, 2019 - 3:12pm

Public Health Column from the Genesee County Health Department:

Do you know that 80 percent of elevated lead levels in adults come from workplace exposures? Adults who do work in construction, auto repairs, paint, weld steel, or even reconstruct bridges have high chances of being exposed to lead.

Exposure can also occur during renovation or remodeling activities in homes built before 1978 when personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves aren’t used. Adults are typically exposed to lead when it is ingested through food, water, cigarettes, contaminated hands, or by inhaling lead fumes or dust.

People with these jobs also risk bringing home dust with lead on their work clothes, skin or equipment. It’s referred to as “take-home lead” and can expose anyone who comes in contact with it to lead.

Brenden Bedard, director of Community Health Services of Genesee and Orleans counties, said it's important to minimize take-home lead exposure.

“By bringing lead into your home, you are putting your family at risk, especially if you have children," Bedard said. "Lead can severely impact a child’s intellectual development, even in the womb, as well as cause other negative health effects for adults.

If your work involves any of the jobs listed above or if you have a hobby involving any type of renovations or remodeling, it is important that you get tested for lead by your Primary Care Doctor.”

According to the New York State Department of Health, lead levels between 10 and 25 micrograms per deciliter of blood (μg/dL) shows that there has been an exposure to lead and will require further actions for treatment. In 2013, the national prevalence rate of blood leads levels ≥10 μg/dL was 20.4 adults per 100,000 employed.

When lead is exposed to the body, about 90 percent is stored in bones and the rest is distributed to the brain, liver and kidneys. When your body undergoes changes such as aging and pregnancy, lead in the bones can be released into the blood leading to higher blood lead levels and increased likelihood of symptoms.

Lead exposure can be very damaging to your health and even lead to death if exposure is extremely high. Some symptoms include high blood pressure, vision or hearing problems, digestive issues, memory loss, seizures, headaches, pain or tingling in the hands and/or feet, and even feelings of weakness.

Tips to Protect Yourself From Lead:

  • Monitor blood lead levels;
  • Shower after working;
  • Wash your hands before you drink, eat, or smoke;
  • Change clothes before going home;
  • Wash work clothes separately;
  • Wear a fitted respirator with a HEPA filter when working with lead and dust fumes;
  • Participate in your employer's lead screening program.

Lead should be taken seriously and it is important to get tested if you think you may be at risk. For information about lead, click here or contact your local Health Department.

  • Genesee County Health Department at: 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website here.
March 19, 2019 - 2:16pm

From the GC Health Department:

According to the 2019 County Health Rankings, released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI) the Genesee and Orleans counties rank 42nd and 52nd, respectively, in overall Health Outcomes.

The Rankings are available at www.countyhealthrankings.org.

“As chief health strategists, we use the County Health Rankings to help us identify factors that are important for residents to live long and healthy lives and understand how we compare to other counties in the state," said Paul Pettit, director of the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments.

"With this knowledge, we can take steps to improve the health of our residents. The county with the lowest score (best health) gets a rank of #1 for that state and the county with the highest score (worst health) is assigned a rank corresponding to the number of total counties ranked in each state. New York State has 62 counties.”

The rankings are broken into to two main categories, Health Outcomes, which include length of life and quality of life, and Health Factors, which include health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. Genesee County ranked 42 out of 62 counties for Health Outcomes and 29 in Health Factors. Orleans County ranked 52 in Health Outcomes and 54 in Health Factors.

“The County Health Rankings show us that where people live plays a key role in how long and how well they live,” Pettit said. “The Rankings allow local leaders to clearly see and prioritize the challenges they face — whether it’s rising premature death rates or the growing drug overdose epidemic — so they can bring community leaders and residents together to find solutions.”

According to the 2019 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in New York State (NYS) starting with most healthy are Rockland, followed by Nassau, Westchester, Saratoga, and New York. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy are Bronx, Sullivan, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Niagara.

What’s new for 2019? This year’s Rankings explore severe housing cost burden and health. The 2019 Key Findings Report highlights the link between housing and health that the RWJF and the UWPHI are seeing across the nation. As housing costs have outpaced local incomes, many families not only struggle to acquire and maintain adequate shelter, but also face difficult trade-offs in meeting other basic needs.

Did you know that across counties increases in the share of households that are severely housing-cost burdened are linked to more children in poverty and more people facing food insecurity?

New measures this year that help to illustrate how counties are fairing including Severe Housing-cost Burden, Homeownership, and Life Expectancy. A new ranked measure included this year is Flu Vaccinations. In addition, an updated data source for the ranked measures of Preventable Hospital Stays and Mammography Screening are being used.

“The County Health Rankings show how Genesee and Orleans Counties rank on factors that influence its overall health ranking,” Pettit said.

For example, Genesee County has an improved Clinical Care ranking, scoring 40 this year as compared to 57 out of 62 counties five years ago. This improvement can be attributed to a lower uninsured population (under age 65) than the NYS average, as well as an increasing number of mental health providers available although still far behind the state average.

A similar trend can be found in Orleans County in regards to these two ranked measures. Additional strengths in Genesee County include a lower percentage of
children living in poverty, which is 15 percent as compared to the state average of 20 percent. As well, the high school graduation rate in Genesee County (91 percent) and Orleans County (89 percent) in 2019 is higher than the state average of 82 percent.

The rankings of Social Associations, Severe Housing Problems, and Long Commute-Driving Alone are also fairing well in both counties compared to the NYS averages. Orleans County has also improved in the Physical Environment and Health Factors rankings, by 11 points (21 out of 62) and two points (54 out of 62) compared to 2018.

Even with the above mentioned positive trends, both counties continue to have challenge areas and are still struggling with health factors specifically with adult smoking (Genesee – 20 percent / Orleans – 22 percent), adult obesity (Genesee – 35 percent / Orleans – 36 percent), physical inactivity (Genesee – 29 percent / Orleans – 31 percent), access to exercise opportunities (Genesee – 61 percent / Orleans – 70 percent), driving alone to work (Genesee – 84 percent / Orleans – 80 percent), and access to clinical care for primary care physicians, dentists and mental health providers.

Orleans County is also ranked as having a higher percentage of children living in poverty (24 percent) as compared to the state average mentioned earlier.

The Rankings have become an important tool for communities that want to improve health for all. Working collaboratively with community partners, Genesee and Orleans counties have a number of initiatives to expand health opportunities for residents, including providing the National Diabetes Prevention Program (Prevent T2), a lifestyle change program to prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes; the Get Fit! Program, an eight-week family-friendly physical activity and nutrition focused program; a tri-county Opioid Task Force; decrease smoking/nicotine usage through referrals and increase cancer screenings.

“The Rankings data will be used in conjunction with additional local sources, such as the Community Health Assessment (CHA) Surveys and Community Conversations that are being collected and occurring now, to inform the 2019-2024 Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming (GOW) Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) which will be submitted to the NYS Department of Health this December, Pettit said.

The CHA survey is available online in English and Spanish until March 31, 2019. Paper copies are also available at various locations in each county. The survey is anonymous and only takes about 15 minutes to complete and focuses on the health of the person taking it. If you are younger than 18, be sure to receive permission to take the survey from your parent(s) or guardian(s).

To access the GOW CHA survey visit here for English or here for Spanish.

The GOW Health Departments are also seeking to schedule Community Conversations with willing groups to learn what they feel are the greatest health concerns or issues in their community and thoughts on how they can be improved. Responses from the confidential surveys and conversations will help identify services that are working, need improving, or to be created.

The more members of the public who participate, the larger and stronger the “building block” of these plans will be!

To participate in a community conversation, obtain hard copies of the survey, or have any questions about the County Health Rankings, please contact your local health department.

  • Genesee County Health Department at: 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website here.
February 19, 2019 - 4:11pm

Public Health Column for February

The Genesee, Orleans, and Wyoming County Health Departments are encouraging county residents to “Choose Health.” By taking small steps in our day-to-day living and making positive health choices, people have the ability to change their future health for the better.

During an average lifespan, the heart beats more than two billion times. The heart is vital to your health and without it blood wouldn’t be able to move through your body. February is American Heart Month, a time to remember how important this muscle is and educate ourselves on how to take better care of it since it is the reason we are alive.

According to the New York State Department of Health, more people die of cardiovascular diseases than all other causes of death combined. In fact, approximately 610,000 people die in the United States every year from heart disease, making the disease accountable for 1 in every 4 deaths.

In 2015, Genesee County had 201 deaths from cardiovascular disease, Orleans County had 144 deaths, and Wyoming County had 120 deaths.

The most common cardiovascular disease is coronary heart disease (CHD), killing an average of 370,000 people every year. This disease occurs when the small blood vessels that carry oxygen and blood to our hearts get very narrow. Coronary heart disease is usually caused by a condition called atherosclerosis, which occurs when fatty material and a substance called plaque builds up on the walls of your arteries.

Plaque is a waxy substance that forms in the artery wall made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances. The buildup forces the arteries to become narrow, slowing down or completely stopping the blood flow to the heart. Narrowing of the arteries can lead to chest pains (stable angina), shortness of breath, or even heart attack.

Heart disease has a close relationship to lifestyle choices. This is why it is so important that you make healthy decisions, participate in physical activity, and eat healthy.

The New York State Department of Health recommends people of all ages engage in physical activity for at least 30 minutes on all or most days of the week. If you do not exercise at all, start slow and discuss with your doctor steps you should take to get active and help improve your heart health.

This may include going to the gym, getting involved in a sport, or even walking the mall with a friend. You can even break the exercise up and do 10 minutes three times a day building up to 30 minutes a day, if 30 minutes all at once seems to be too overwhelming. By repeating these small changes daily, they are likely to turn into a habit and your heart will thank you for it in the long run.

It is also important when focusing on heart health to pay close attention to nutrition. Poor nutrition can lead to many health problems, including high blood cholesterol levels, obesity and diabetes.

Consuming food high in saturated fat (whole milk, butter, and red meats), trans fats (foods with hydrogenated oils like boxed cookies, crackers, and doughnuts) or sodium (found in many processed foods) can increase your risk of getting heart disease.

To improve you’re eating habits and lower risks of heart disease you can eat more fruits and vegetables, limit processed foods, eat foods high in fiber, reduce your sodium intake and limit trans fats, saturated fats, and cholesterol.

When choosing to eat meats avoid red meats and go for lean meat instead, these would include meats such as lean ground turkey, fish, and skinless chicken.

“Staying on track when it comes to eating healthy can be a difficult thing to do but is extremely necessary to stay healthy and preventcardiovascular disease,” said Paul Pettit, Public Health director for Genesee and Orleans counties.

Although poor nutrition and lack of exercise are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, the single largest risk factor is smoking. Smokers are twice as likely to have a heart attack as nonsmokers are, and are between two and four times more likely to die suddenly from heart disease. This is due to the nicotine in cigarettes raising blood pressure and the carbon monoxide limiting the amount of oxygen that can be carried by your blood.

Although you may not smoke, exposure to smoke in the home and workplace has also been shown to increase risk from the second hand smoke. Talk with family members about quitting smoking or discuss designated smoke areas to reduce second hand smoke.

The New York State Smoker’s Quitline is a great resource for free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and support services. Call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866- 697-8487) or visit www.nysmokefree.com.

There are also other factors that increase your risk for heart disease. Unfortunately some of those factors may be out of your control. One factor happens to be gender. For example, men in their 40s have a higher risk of heart disease than women. However, as women get older, their risk increases so that it is almost equal to a man’s risk.

Secondly, genetics can play a role in developing heart disease. If someone in your family has had heart disease, especially before age 50, your own risk increases as you age. It is especially important that precautions are taken and healthy habits are made in order to decrease risk of developing heart disease.

So how do I know if I am having a heart attack? Well, here are some signs:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and then comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or just pain;
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. This can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach;

  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort;

  • Breaking into a cold sweat;

  • Nausea;

  • Lightheadedness;

  • Palpitations (feeling like your heart is pounding or beating fast)


It is important to understand that men and women often have different signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Women are more likely to experience the less known symptoms of the jaw and back pain, nausea and vomiting.

Unfortunately, many people are unsure of what is happening to their body and wait to seek help, instead of going in right away to find out what is wrong.

It is important to learn the signs, but also remember that even if you are not sure if it is a heart attack, to tell a doctor about your symptoms. Just one call to the doctors, explaining your symptoms could save your life. Minutes matter!

If you think you are having a heart attack, do not wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1.

For additional information, contact your local health department.

Contact the Genesee County Health Department at 344-2580, ext. 5555, or visit their website here.

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