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Gov. Kathy Hochul

November 22, 2021 - 8:49pm

Image result for nysacRural counties in New York State currently have Gov. Kathy Hochul’s ear concerning the pressing issues of the day, Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said today, and the possibility of vaccine mandates is at the top of the list.

“There is a big consensus among, especially the more rural counties, what we want to communicate to the governor,” Landers said at the Genesee County Legislature meeting at the Old County Courthouse. “And we are pleased that the governor, in a phone call last evening … for county administrators and decision-makers and the governor's office .. is trying to make an effort to at least listen to the viewpoints of counties, which was something that the previous governor wasn’t doing.”

Landers said rural county leaders are “looking for less mandates, less restrictions – not the other way around.”

“We understand that it's going be difficult, but those are some of the takeaways that the county administrators in more rural counties are looking for moving forward, and less of a hammer,” he said.

County officials need more testing resources, he said.

“That's one thing that in order for us to comply with -- or are trying to dig ourselves out; having more testing resources is critical. And we are sorely lacking in a testing resources,”

He also said the state needs to put out more positive messaging, with a focus on help and communicating success stories.

“We’d like to see an endgame laid out,” Landers said. “I know that our schools are asking for this. County administrators are asking for this. What does success look like? We’d like to have an endgame laid out and a greater focus on hospitalizations and less on just straight (COVID-19) positives.”

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein added that counties are dead set against a possible state mandate “being overlaid onto rural counties.”

“That raised some ire,” she said.

Landers said state officials are looking at New York City’s low positivity rates, which have come as (partially) as a result of vaccine mandates, and could use that model for upstate counties.

“Leaders are pointing to the fact that they have vaccine mandates in place if you want to go to dining establishments and things like that, so that that comparison was provided to us,” he said. “And it's something that if our hospitalization rates don't improve then everything's on the table, even something like that.”

Landers also mentioned the situation in Erie County, which announced today that a mask mandate for all indoor public locations will start Tuesday at 6 a.m.

Rural county administrators think mandates do more harm than good, he said, and Stein agreed, adding that if mandates are required, then New York State should be responsible for enforcement.

“We also asked for the fact that if these mandates came down, that the enforcement is not something that is pushed down onto the county government but it is held at the state level,” she said. “And that's where the responsibility lies. That was very clear in that conversation.”

Landers said the ability to enforce has to be clear as well.

“If left open to local interpretation, it's not going to be effective. The enforcement, the ability, the right, the law, whatever you want to say, (needs to be) clear cut and able to be enforced and the state has to provide resources on the enforcement side.”

Turning to resolutions, as expected, the legislature adopted the county’s 2022 budget – a $158,502,898 All Funds spending plan that keeps the property tax levy the same as the 2021 budget.

The 2022 General Fund (operating) budget is set at $119,394,176, about $9.1 million more than the 2021 budget.

By keeping the same tax levy, the property tax rate falls from $9.80 to $9.18 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. This was accomplished by using an additional $680,000 in unexpended reserves than originally proposed.

In other action, the legislature approved:

  • Revision of Local Law Introductory No. 6, which changes the Genesee County Hotel and Motel Occupancy Tax Law to include Airbnb-type short-term lodging sites.

Landers commended County Attorney Kevin Earl for his efforts to close any “loopholes: and to “clean up” the wording of the law, which was supported by the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce. Key revisions reduced the number of units from six to one and stipulate that the property would have to be rented out for more than 14 days in a year.

Short-term sites such as Airbnb now will be subject to the 3 percent “bed tax” that is added on to hotel/motel bills.

  • Funding five capital improvement projects as Genesee Community College – four next year and one in 2023 – at a maximum cost of $1.7 million as long as New York State commits the same amount.
  • Holding a public hearing on Dec. 8 to consider a local law to set the salaries of the following county elected or appointed fixed term employees: Commission of Elections, Director of Human Resources, Commissioner of Social Services, Director of Real Property Tax Services, County Clerk, Treasurer, Sheriff, and Highway Superintendent.
  • Reappointing Molly Haungs, marketing manager of LandPro Equipment, to a two-year term on the GLOW Workforce Development Board and James Kingston of Elba to a two-year term to the Genesee County Soil & Water Conservation District board of directors.
Comments
October 20, 2021 - 2:04pm

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Gov. Kathy Hochul touted the hard working Western New York community today as she took part in a groundbreaking ceremony to recognize Plug Power, Inc.’s $290 million investment at the Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park in the Town of Alabama.

“There is a strong work ethic here,” said Hochul, a Buffalo native who spent much time in Genesee and surrounding counties during her days as a U.S. Congresswoman and New York State lieutenant governor. “I come from just a little bit down the road – the granddaughter of a steel worker in a steel plant; my dad worked in the steel plant. In Rochester, he worked at Eastman Kodak and many other jobs.

“People are used to working hard, and employers are recognizing it. This is in our DNA. This is what they will get when they come here and invest here. They’ll get the very best people.”

Hochul was joined by Andy Marsh, chief executive officer of the Latham-based Plug Power, which is set to construct a major green hydrogen fuel production plant and a 450-megawatt electric substation that will provide power to the entire STAMP site.

Officials from the New York Power Authority were also on hand at the Genesee County Economic Development Center-coordinate event, which drew around 100 people.

The NYPA board previously approved a 10,000-kilowatt hydropower provision along with $1.5 million in funding from the Western New York Power Proceeds program, and 143 MW of High-Load Factor power that NYPA will procure for Plug Power on the energy market, drastically lowering electric bills through a reduction in electricity delivery chargers.

Other speakers were State Sen. Edward Rath, Assemblyman Steve Hawley, Genesee County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein and GCEDC Vice President of Operations Mark Masse.

A CLEAN ENERGY REVOLUTION

Hochul said that the location “is the place where the clean energy revolution is happening.”

She thanked officials at the NYPA for “harnessing the power of the Niagara River … and (being able to) spread that energy across the state – literally, spread the energy across the state.”

“To invest here and to send a message that this project is important enough to have your investment, but also to transfer electricity here and power here, and the conversion into green hydrogen. That’s not happening anywhere else; nowhere else are they being that creative,” she said.

She drew a round of applause when she said, “It’s happening here in Genesee County. And as a result, we’ll have North America’s largest green hydrogen production facility here in the State of New York, but right here in Genesee County.”

The governor said she was “so delighted” to be back home again as this county has special meaning to her.

“I heard Mark (Masse) say I was here a few times,” she said. “I was here a few times a week – to your candy stores and your shops and your restaurants and your downtown, and had the opportunity to talk about the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and so many other transformative projects. So, when I come back home here it gives me the sense of not just (being) excited about what we’ve done in the past but the possibilities in the future. And, ladies and gentlemen, the future is starting today.”

THANKING THE 'EARLY VISIONARIES'

She credited “early visionaries” such as Steve Hyde, former Senator Mary Lou Rath, Assemblyman Steven Hawley, Genesee County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein and local government officials.

“Thank you for never giving up, for always having the faith. Your persistence and patience has paid off. And that’s what today is all about.”

And she thanked Marsh for seeing the possibilities in Genesee County.

“It’s companies, it’s people and it’s also places, and this place has been crying out for an opportunity like this to show what it was really made out of,” she said. “And the location, I’ve always said this. This region is spectacular because of its proximity to two larger urban areas …”

Masse said interest in STAMP from corporate site selectors from the advanced manufacturing sector -- including semiconductor and clean energy -- has never been stronger.

“There’s a long queue of prospects constantly asking for information, meetings and visiting the site. Our region and our site are very suitable for companies such as Plug Power to succeed and make a lasting impact,” he said.

MASSE PROMOTES SHOVEL-READINESS

Noting that the region has 2.1 million people in a 60-mile radius with 57 colleges and universities – and 4,000 engineering graduates annually, Masse said, “The only thing holding us back now is the increasing of our capacities of existing infrastructure to make this site completely shovel-ready.”

“This would have the full water, sewer, electric at the property line for any company looking to locate here so they can move quickly to construct their facility and be up and running as soon as possible.”

Masse said he was hopeful that New York State will continue to make infrastructure investments to advance the shovel-readiness of mega-sites such as STAMP.

Marsh compared Plug Power’s expansion to George Westinghouse’s pioneering electrical network more than 100 years ago.

“Hydrogen is really important, and green hydrogen is especially important,” he said, adding that projections show that 18 percent of the world’s energy is going to come from hydrogen.

MARSH FORESEES ACCELERATION

“And right here in the field will be the first large-scale green hydrogen network, not only in New York, not only in the U.S., but around the world. Just like George Westinghouse did with electricity years and years ago.”

He called that “a great accelerator for this local economy and Plug Power believes, with its investments here, which we hope to continue to grow – with our investments in Rochester – we will see the same.”

Marsh, mentioning that Plug Power’s green hydrogen will power forklifts at several big companies, said that 25 percent of food during COVID moved through Plug Power products.

“It really made the world realize what Plug Power was doing. We were able to raise $5 billion in the public market, which supplements a lot that goes on with support in New York and other places,” he offered.

CLICK HERE for more about today's developments.

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Photo above: Gov. Kathy Hochul speaking at this morning's Plug Power groundbreaking event at WNY STAMP in the Town of Alabama. Photos below: Hochul and Plug Power CEO (center) and other regional and state officials take part in the ceremony; state, regional and local government leaders turned out for the event. Photos by Steve Ognibene.

September 30, 2021 - 12:11pm

Vaccination rates for United Memorial Medical Center employees are right around the 90 percent mark as hospitals and other facilities around the state contend with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Sept. 27th mandate requiring health care workers to get vaccinated or risk losing their jobs.

According to statistics on the New York State COVID-19 vaccine website -- www.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov, 94 percent of workers at UMMC’s Bank Street campus have been vaccinated compared to 89 percent at UMMC’s North Street campus.

UMMC is part of Rochester Regional Health System, which is showing a 90 percent vaccination rate for all of its employees – a percentage point less than data for Strong Memorial Hospital University of Rochester Medical Center.

(Watch for an update later today).

The percentage of hospital workers vaccinated in the Finger Lakes Region is 90 percent, with Genesee and Orleans counties at 89 and Wyoming County at 90.

These figures are calculated from the number of hospital staff eligible for vaccination and the number completing the recommended series of a given COVID-19 vaccine product (e.g. 2 doses of the 2-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or 1-dose of the 1-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine), per the state website.

Statistics for nursing homes and assisted living facilities reveal the following for Genesee County (as reported by the individual facilities as of Sept. 27):

Nursing homes:

  • Le Roy Village Green – Residents’ complete dose: 92.7 percent; Staff complete dose: 83 percent.
  • Premier Genesee – Residents’ complete dose: 90.3 percent; Staff complete dose: 92.4 percent.
  • The Grand – Residents’ complete dose: 91.4 percent; Staff complete dose: 90.7 percent.

Assisted living:

  • Genesee Adult Home – Residents’ complete dose: 94.5 percent; Staff complete dose: 72.7 percent.
  • Le Roy Manor -- Residents’ complete dose: 97.2 percent; Staff compete dose: 92.3 percent.
  • The Manor House, Batavia – Residents’ complete dose: 100 percent; Staff compete dose: 93.6 percent.

Calls seeking comment from the administrators at the nursing homes listed above were not returned at the time of the posting of this story. Samantha Vagg is the administrator at Le Roy Village Green, Sharon Zeams is the administrator at Premier Genesee and Timothy Srye is the administrator at The Grand.

All told in Genesee County, skilled nursing facilities vaccination rates as of Sept. 28 were 94 percent for residents and 90 percent for workers and adult care facilities vaccination rates as of Sept. 28 were 97 percent for residents and 87 percent for workers.

REPORT FROM GOV. HOCHUL

On Wednesday, Hochul said that 92 percent of hospital and nursing home workforce have gotten at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, and 89 percent of adult care facilities employees have received at least one dose.

Based on total number of hospital employees in the state, an 8 percent unvaccinated rate equates to more than 41,000 who have not received at least one dose. As a result, the governor’s staff is monitoring the impact of her mandate, with the possibility of bringing in health care workers from out of the state or even from other countries.

The Genesee County Legislature, along with about seven other counties in the region, has sent a letter to the governor asking for her to include a coronavirus testing option for health care workers.

“I fully support the legislature’s position … to ensure that we didn’t have any lapse in service,” County Manager Matt Landers said today. “It’s a common sense, logical approach to the situation at hand. Obviously, we’d like to see as many people vaccinated as possible, but at the end of the day, we can’t jeopardize the care of our sick and our elderly because of the mandate.”

DATA FOR GENERAL PUBLIC

Latest statistics (as of Sept. 29) also show that 56.1 percent of Genesee County residents age 12 and over are fully vaccinated, which is less than the 63.6 percent for all New York state residents.

By zip code (as of Sept. 28), these are the percentages of those fully vaccinated:

  • Batavia – 50.4
  • East Bethany – 38.8
  • Alexander – 44
  • Basom – 44.4
  • Oakfield – 45.3
  • Byron – 48
  • Corfu – 49.6
  • Darien Center – 51.1
  • Pavilion – 53.8
  • Bergen – 55.3
  • Le Roy – 56.5
  • Stafford – 65.5
  • Elba – 73.6

In the Finger Lakes Region, the total number of people with at least one vaccine dose has increased over the past week by 7,695 to 760,752, and the total number of people with the complete vaccine series has increased over the past week by 5,590 to 706,944.

BOOSTER SHOT STATUS LOCALLY

Nola Goodrich-Kresse, public health educator, reported that the Genesee Orleans Health Department has set up clinics for those eligible for booster shots, beginning next week.

“Boosters are offered during the regular clinic day with the only difference being registration is required for boosters,” she said.

The booster shot schedule, for those 65 and older who became fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago:

  • Oct. 6 from 12:45 to 3:30 p.m., Genesee County Health Department, 3837 West Main Street Rd., Batavia;
  • Oct. 7, from 12:45 to 3:30 p.m., Orleans County Health Department, 14016 State Route 31, Suite 101, Albion.

These shots are administered by appointment only.

Comments
September 22, 2021 - 7:39pm

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PUBLISHER'S NOTE:  Comments are closed.  It's become too much of a battle, taking too much time, to deal with all of the misinformation being posted in comments.

Several Genesee County residents exercised their right to peacefully assemble this afternoon, gathering in front of the Upton Monument at the Route 5 and 63 fork to protest governmental COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

“We’ve been rallying to help the cause of healthcare workers,” Roxie Winegar said. “I’m a DSP (Direct Support Professional) for ARC (The Arc of Genesee Orleans) and I don’t want to lose my job; I don’t want anybody to lose their job over being forced to be vaccinated when it’s a choice to put something into your body.”

Winegar said she believes vaccines cause death and impairment, “and long-term effects that you can not get out of your body – you cannot reverse.”

“They are not a vaccine. They are an mRNA (messenger RNA) genetic changer, and once you have that, you don’t have the human genetic makeup anymore – it’s totally changed,” she stated.

She said she has done much research into the vaccine, and doesn’t buy most of mainstream media’s reporting on the matter.

“They are so very evidently biased … they all say the same thing. It’s the same script. They’re all given a script and they all say it,” she said.

Sue Wlazlak, an employee (analyst) of United Memorial Medical Center, said the mandate is violating people’s freedoms.

“They’ve taken away our freedom of choice and it’s completely against the Constitution. I don’t understand any of this,” she said.

When asked if she thought natural immunity for those who have had COVID should be considered, she replied, “That’s the other piece that is huge. They’re not testing for the immunity. I had to get tested for the chicken pox and that proved that I had immunity, so they didn’t offer me a vaccine. They should be doing that.”

Wlazlak said she sees the vaccines as experimental and full of risks.

“So, if you have reasons why (you don’t want it), you shouldn't be forced to infect your body to go to work,” she offered.

Another protester said the issue goes beyond just the vaccine mandate.

“Vladimir Putin said it best: The United States is heading toward communism with breathtaking speed,” Gary DiSanto said. “We’re becoming a totalitarian, one-party state.”

Thousands of healthcare workers at hospitals run by New York State could face suspension or loss of jobs beginning on Monday as a result of the mandate originally ordered by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and kept in force by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The directive does not allow for regular testing instead of being vaccinated. Hochul’s administration and numerous labor unions are in negotiations to see if an agreement could be reached. Mass firings or resignations would cripple the state’s healthcare system.

In a related development, as first reported by The Batavian, the Genesee County Legislature yesterday passed a resolution adopted by the Ways & Means Committee to modify the COVID-19 mandate by providing options such as regular testing for those opting to not take the vaccine at this time.

Copies of the resolution are being sent to Hochul, Health Commissioner Ann Marie T. Sullivan, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay and Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt.

Photo: Among those protesting vaccine mandates today are, from left, Gary DiSanto, Roxie Winegar, Bob Hoskins, Sue Wlazlak, Jo Coburn, Theresa Wlazlak and Evelyn Aubrey. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

September 15, 2021 - 6:49pm

The Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee this afternoon responded to a call from the New York State Association of Counties to oppose Gov. Kathy Hochul’s order forcing all healthcare workers to be vaccinated by Sept. 27 or risk losing their jobs.

The committee passed a resolution urging Hochul and new Health Commissioner Ann Marie T. Sullivan to modify the COVID-19 mandate by providing options such as regular testing for those opting to not take the vaccine at this time. It will be presented to the entire legislature at next Wednesday’s meeting.

“This came as a result of the letter that was sent from the nine counties in the Finger Lakes Region (expressing) our concern in regards to the healthcare crisis that is facing us on September 27th,” Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said. “It was delivered to the NYSAC folks, and they sent a letter immediately but they’re asking for counties to please send resolutions urging the same.”

Ways & Means Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg echoed Stein’s thoughts, stating that “there will be a crisis in healthcare if all of these people who are not vaccinated are forced to resign their positions without any kind of alternative testing options.”

Stein pointed out that many healthcare facilities are closing departments as workers have already decided to quit.

“Just this week, Lewis County shut down – their hospital shut down their maternity ward, St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany is shutting down a whole wing and Wyoming County Hospital’s nursing home is looking at 50-plus people resigning over the vaccine mandate,” she said. “And the result is going to be overwhelmed hospitals and we’re going to be in a worse position than we were last March, April and May in New York State.”

Clattenburg said that the committee is encouraging other options, such as twice-a-week testing and masking -- “everything we’ve been doing in order to keep our healthcare workers working.”

Stein agreed, noting that while “everyone is encouraged to take their vaccine as a preventive … those who are not, this would at least give them an opportunity to continue in the care for our communities.”

On Aug. 28, New York 28 issued the order requiring healthcare workers in hospitals and nursing homes to get at least their first vaccine shot by Sept. 27. On Tuesday, a federal judge in Utica temporarily blocked the state from forcing medical workers to be vaccinated, following a lawsuit by 17 healthcare workers, who contend that not allowing religious exemptions to the mandate violated their Constitutional rights.

The state has until Sept. 22 to respond, and if it opposes the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary court order blocking the vaccine mandate, an oral hearing will take place on Sept. 28.

The Genesee County resolution stipulates that copies be sent to Hochul, Sullivan, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay and Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt.

In a related development, about two dozen people -- mostly healthcare workers -- gathered at the Main and Ellicott in downtown Batavia around 6 p.m. yesterday, holding signs stating "Coercion is Not Consent" and "If it's Forced, Are we Free?" and protesting what they proclaimed is a loss of freedom. The protesters found support for their cause by passers-by honking horns and giving thumbs up.

Comments
August 30, 2021 - 11:15am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, New York State Health Department, Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Following a call from Gov. Kathy Hochul for a mask mandate in schools, the New York State Department of Health on Friday filed an emergency regulation mandating masks inside all school buildings, CBS New York reported.

According to the report, all students, faculty and staff of public and private schools, pre-K through 12th grade, will be required to wear masks inside school buildings. Visitors will also be required to wear masks inside school buildings.

A letter from Health Commissioner Howard Zucker cites the increasing circulation and transmissibility of the Delta variant as a driving factor for the mandate, the story indicated.

At her inaugural address Tuesday, Hochul called for a mask mandate for both public and private schools.

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