Local Matters

Recent comments

Community Sponsors

health department

September 23, 2022 - 12:10pm
posted by Press Release in health department, radon, news.

Press release:

Did you know that radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas that is released in rock, soil and water? Radon has no smell, taste or color and kills more than 21,000 people each year. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer and the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.

Radon can build up to dangerous levels in your home, which can occur in new homes or older homes. “Radon can enter your home through cracks in the foundation, cracks in basement walls, holes, joints, dirt floors, sump pump holes, suspended floors and in the well-water supply,” stated Darren Brodie, Environmental Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “Any house that has contact to the ground has the potential for radon to enter the home.”

Both the EPA and New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) have identified Genesee County as having a high average indoor radon screening level greater than 4 pCi/L (pico curies per liter). “Testing your home for radon is the only way to know if high levels are present and corrective action is needed,” stated Brodie. When radon tests are completed, they should be performed in the lowest primary living area of the home.

GO Health encourages residents to test for radon when buying a home, doing a major renovation, every 2 years if there is a mitigation system installed or every 5 years otherwise. You can purchase a short-term radon test kit from your local hardware store or through a radon-testing laboratory. For more information on radon or other GO Health programs and services, visit GOHealthNY.org

September 8, 2022 - 5:54pm
posted by Press Release in anti-rabies clinic, health department, news.
Video Sponsor
Video from clinic in 2020


Press release:

The Genesee County Health Department will be hosting a FREE drive-thru anti-rabies immunization clinic on Thursday, Sept. 15 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Genesee County Fairgrounds (5056 East Main Street, Batavia).

“Rabies continues to be a public health issue in Genesee County. We urge pet owners to take this opportunity to ensure their pets are protected against rabies,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “Our drive-thru clinics are well-organized, run very smoothly and prevent animals from getting into any altercations with other animals.”

Vaccinations are free for dogs, cats, and ferrets, but voluntary donations are accepted. Animals must be at least 3 months old. Each animal must be leashed or crated and accompanied by an adult who can control the animal. Limit 4 pets per car maximum. To save you time, please click here to fill out your registration form in advance. Be sure to print out two copies for each pet to be vaccinated and bring them with you to the clinic.

The next anti-rabies immunization clinics are as follows:

  • Genesee County Clinics at the Genesee County Fairgrounds (5056 East Main Street, Batavia, NY)
    • Thursday, October 13th, 2022 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • Orleans County Clinics at the Orleans County Fairgrounds (12690 Rt. 31, Albion, NY)  
    • Saturday, October 15th, 2022 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

For more information on Health Department services, visit GOHealthNY.org or call 585-344-2580 ext. 5555 for Genesee County or 589-3278 for Orleans County.

August 24, 2022 - 8:32pm

jarett_1.jpg“My name is Jarett LoCicero and you can find me at the GCASA recovery center, helping out with services for those looking to be themselves, feel better and maybe even live their dreams.”

That’s the way LoCicero, a Batavia resident in his fourth year of recovery, ended his six-minute talk this afternoon at the annual Overdose Awareness Day hosted by the GOW Opioid Task Force at Austin Park. He was able to pack a powerful message into his speech -- reflecting the event’s theme of reducing the stigma attached to addiction and letting people know that help is right around the corner.

Now a case manager at The Recovery Station operated by Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, LoCicero (photo above) shared that changing the perception of himself was key to his road to recovery.

“Today, we're speaking vaguely from a person's point of view that's been afflicted with the disease of addiction, and their capacity to change that perspective,” he said. “Ultimately, what stops the person from this change? And, maybe when someone is scratching at the fronts of their eyes to see themselves follow through with the decision, a change or a commitment, they fall short again, and again, ultimately not feeling as if they could succeed despite the best and most pure of intentions?”

He talked about the agony felt by the person caught up in substance use and for their families. As a result, he said, that person “can die for this or die for change, a desire to feel different -- the very nature of an overdose or instant gratification, and why many of us have gathered here today.”

Upon realization that someone has a problem, LoCicero said it then becomes a matter of perspective – and the change in that perspective can be accelerated by the encouragement from those who care.

“Once perspective may be supported by ‘I’ statements, such as I am, I can't, I won't, I come from this, I'm cut from that cloth, this is my culture, stay in your lane. This will never happen or workout for me,” he said. “But, despite all of that, a person will say to themselves if I just had X, Y and Z, I could do this. If the light could just shine down on me. I could do this and make a difference in my life.


“Because it's my life. What X, Y and Z boil down to being mostly in every case is our common and essential needs -- love and care support, personal needs that allow one the opportunity to self-actualize and become their dream.”

LoCicero said that once he saw his life through a different filter – “and put in some effort” – his perspective changed and his life changed “nearly instantly.”

He said his breakthrough to believing in himself has led to a desire to help others do the same thing.

“It’s what we can do for folks, (show that) we care about suffering with the disease of addiction, a disease of a lifestyle, and we can contribute to optimal conditions necessary for growth and opportunity by making folks aware of our want and commitment to help, most importantly, proving to them that it's possible,” he said.

LoCicero said those in attendance representing human services and health agencies want nothing more but to reach out to those struggling with addiction and “have you join the community – your community – or at least to reduce your potential for harm.”

In closing, he shared a three-step approach that pulled him out of bondage.

“If you can put yourself in front of God, you will find a miracle. If you work hard enough and grind hard enough, you may find your cure. If you be yourself, that's the only way you can find change and find happiness. If you do all three of these things, and if you ask for help, undoubtedly you will recover.”



Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee and Orleans counties, (in photo above), applauded the work of the GOW Opioid Task Force, the three-county partnership of agencies that has been is place for the past five years.

“Preventing opioid overdose deaths … is one of the priority goals of the GOW Community Health Improvement Plan,” Pettit said, mentioning that drug overdose is the leading cause of injury mortality in the United States. “The opioid epidemic is an urgent and serious public health and public safety issue.”

Nationally, more than 100,000 people died of drug overdoses last year, and worldwide, the number approached 600,000. And, after trending down in 2018 and 2019, the numbers are increasing once again, he said.

“In Genesee County, there were 15 fatal opioid overdoses in 2020 – 15 too many,” Pettit said, “with six in Orleans County and seven in Wyoming County.”

He cited the rise in fentanyl and synthetic opioids and in concurrent stimulant use, especially cocaine.

“The takeaway from this is that people are dying of fentanyl overdoses when they only mean to take cocaine or another stimulant, and might not know they are at risk of an overdose at all,” he said.


GCASA Executive Director John Bennett shared that the Overdose Awareness Day initiative, which was started in Australia in 2001, now is celebrated internationally, with 367 events in the U.S. and around 600 outside of America’s borders.

“It’s an honor for us to be able to present this to our community,” he said. “As I go to the different booths here today, I am hearing people having good conversations with community members. It’s all about reducing the stigma of people with addiction. It's about giving people who've lost loved ones a place to talk about-- without stigma, without shame and without guilt -- in a really kind, positive and friendly zone.”

Bennett pointed the agency’s recently-opened Detox Center on East Main Street as a place “that is already saving lives.”

“We offer open access; you can just walk in and we’ll see you. Just last Thursday, I think we have seven admissions,” he said. “Doing events like this in the community brings awareness. So, my advice is if you need help, there's open access centers all around Western New York. Go to one of them, and they'll get you where you need to be. Or call me. My number is 585-815-1850 and I'll find you a place.”

Other speakers were Christopher Budzinack, a residential counselor at GCASA’s Atwater Community Residence, who spoke about his recovery from addiction and jail time, and Niki Lang, who read a letter and poem written by her son, Jason, who died in 2017 due to substance use disorder.

More than a dozen agencies had booths at the event, including Mental Health Association of Genesee and Orleans counties, Genesee County Office for the Aging, Batavia Community Schools, Genesee County Mental Health, Genesee Justice, National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, Job Corps, Rochester Regional Health, CORE, Restore, Genesee County Health Department, Oak Orchard Health, Suicide Prevention Coalition, Care-A-Van Ministries, Horizon, Fidelis Care, Molina Healthcare and WNY Heroes (for veterans).

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.


The Rev. Vern Saile, pastor of Northgate Free Methodist Church, giving the invocation at Overdose Awareness Day.


"The Groove" belts out covers of classic rock songs -- from left, Joe Gagne, Pete Gomez, Neil Gagne and Bob Smith.


Messages of hope form the pieces of the puzzle at the National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence. Erin Egloff, left, and Kaitlyn Mellina provide services in the Finger Lakes region.


Melody McMaster brightens up the day for 8-year-old Avi at the face painting booth.


The team from Rochester Regional Health (parent of United Memorial Medical Center) is ready to share with the public.


Animal attraction in the form of Frega's Funny Farm of Stafford.

Photos by Mike Pettinella.

August 11, 2022 - 1:05am
posted by Press Release in health department, Paul Pettit, news.

Press release:

Paul Pettit, MSL, CPH, Health Director of the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments in New York, has been newly elected to the National Association of County and City Health Officials’ Board of Directors for a three-year term as a Director for Region 2, representing local health departments in NJ, NY, PR, and the USVI. NACCHO is the voice of the country’s nearly 3,000 local health departments. Mr. Pettit’s term began on July 1, 2022.      

“Being elected to serve on the NACCHO board is a very humbling and exciting opportunity. I’ve had the privilege to serve as a local public health director for over 14 years in the communities where I live,” said Paul Pettit. “Local public health is where we see the true impact of our work and have the direct interaction with our residents.  Serving on the board will allow me to represent my colleagues in Region 2 and work collaboratively with my fellow board members and the staff of NACCHO to continue the advocacy work for funding and services that will directly impact and improve the lives of those in our communities.” 

“I am very pleased that Paul Pettit’s colleagues around the country have voted to have him join our board,” said NACCHO Chief Executive Officer Lori Tremmel Freeman. “He is a past president of the New York State Association of County Health Officials and is especially active in public health policy and advocacy. We greatly appreciate the experience and insight he will bring to our organization’s leadership.”

About Mr. Pettit
Mr. Pettit has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester in Environmental Health, a Master of Science degree in Strategic Leadership from Roberts Wesleyan College and a certificate in Public Health from the University at Albany. 

Mr. Pettit has worked in public health for over 23 years, starting as an environmental health technician and advancing to the public health director role for Orleans County in January 2008. In 2012, he also became the public health director for Genesee County through a collaborative cross-jurisdictional sharing (CJS) arrangement between the two counties. This unique CJS partnership was supported and developed with assistance from the Center for Sharing Public Health Services. 

In addition to serving on many local, regional and state Board of Directors, Mr. Pettit is a Past President of the New York State Association of County Health Officials (NYSACHO), he was recently appointed to the New York State Rural Health Council, and he is very active in statewide public health and policy advocacy. Mr. Pettit is also an adjunct professor, teaching various public health classes at both SUNY Brockport and the University at Buffalo.

August 5, 2022 - 5:52pm
posted by Press Release in anti-rabies clinic, fairgrounds, health department, news.

Press release:

The Genesee County Health Department will be hosting a FREE drive-thru anti-rabies immunization clinic on Thursday, August 11th from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Genesee County Fairgrounds (5056 East Main Street, Batavia).

New York State Public Health Law requires all dogs, cats and domestic ferrets to be vaccinated against rabies after they reach the age of 4 months. Animals must also remain up-to-date on rabies vaccinations and owners can be fined up to $200 if they fail to get their pets vaccinated and keep them up to date.

“Animal rabies continues to be a serious public health problem in Genesee County,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “We remind all residents to make sure that their animals are immunized against rabies and that their vaccinations are kept up to date.”

Vaccinations are free for dogs, cats, and ferrets, but voluntary donations are accepted. Animals must be at least 3 months old. Each animal must be leashed or crated and accompanied by an adult who can control the animal. Limit 4 pets per car maximum.

To save you time, please click here to fill out your registration form in advance. Be sure to print out two copies for each pet to be vaccinated and bring them with you to the clinic.

The next anti-rabies immunization clinics are as follows:

  • Genesee County Clinics at the Genesee County Fairgrounds (5056 East Main Street, Batavia, NY)
    • Thursday, September 15th, 2022 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
    • Thursday, October 13th, 2022 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • Orleans County Clinics at the Orleans County Fairgrounds (12690 Rt. 31, Albion, NY)  
    • Saturday, August 13th, 2022 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
    • Saturday, October 15th, 2022 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

For more information on Health Department services, visit GOHealthNY.org or call 589-3278 for Orleans County or 585-344-2580 ext. 5555 for Genesee County.

August 4, 2022 - 12:52pm
posted by Press Release in news, batavia, health department, notify.

Press Release

The Genesee County Health Department is seeking information about the location of a dog and its owner(s)following a dog bite incident on Tuesday, August 2, at 9:00a.m. The incident occurred on Jerome Place near East Main Street in the city of Batavia. 

The dog approached a person on Jerome Place and bit the individuals arm. After the incident, the dog ran across Main Street in the westerly direction and was almost struck by a car. 

The dog was described as a solid, dark gray dog with a bright blue collar. The dog resembled a pit bull or bulldog. 

It is important to locate the dog to determine whether or not it is current on its rabies shot. If the health status is not identified, post-exposure rabies shots will be offered to the victim.    

If you have information about the location of the dogs and its owner(s), please contact the Genesee County Health Department at 585-344-2580 ext. 5555.

July 14, 2022 - 9:38pm
posted by Press Release in health department, news.

Press release:

New York will once again be taking part in a nationally coordinated effort to halt the spread of raccoon rabies in 16 states.  Ongoing field evaluation of a new oral rabies vaccine (ORV) called ONRAB will occur in Clinton, and Essex counties in the Empire State as part of an evaluation that also includes parts of northern Vermont and New Hampshire. Additionally, evaluations will also occur in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Jefferson, Lewis, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, and Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence, and Wyoming counties.  These sites were selected in part because of ongoing collaborations with Quebec and Ontario, Canada in the fight against rabies to protect human and animal health and reduce the significant costs associated with living with rabies across broad geographic areas.  Aerial and hand distribution of baits will take place in New York from July 26 – August 19, 2022.

Rabies is a serious public health concern because if left untreated it is generally fatal.  Costs associated with detection, prevention and control of rabies conservatively exceed $500 million annually. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, greater than 90 percent of reported rabies cases in the United States are in wildlife.  The cooperative USDA, APHIS, Wildlife Services National Rabies Management Program (NRMP) was established in 1997 to prevent the further spread of wildlife rabies in the United States by containing and eventually eliminating the virus in terrestrial mammals.  The majority of the NRMP efforts are focused on controlling raccoon rabies, which continues to account for most of the reported wildlife rabies cases in the U.S.  Raccoon rabies occurs in all states east of the established ORV zone that extends from Maine to northeastern Ohio to central Alabama.  Continued access to oral vaccine and bait options that are effective in all target wildlife species remains critical to long-term success.

In 2011, the NRMP worked with other Federal, State, and local partners to conduct the first raccoon ORV field trial in the U.S. in over 20 years.  This field trial was designed to test the safety and immunogenicity (provoke an immune response in the body of a human or other animal) of the oral human adenovirus-rabies glycoprotein recombinant vaccine ONRAB (Artemis Technologies Inc., an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of Ceva Sante Animale S.A., Guelph, Ontario, Canada), which has been successfully integrated into comprehensive rabies control programs that resulted in the elimination of raccoon rabies from Canada.  Encouraging results from the U.S. trial in West Virginia represented a major milestone that led to expanded evaluations in 4 additional states (NH, NY, OH, and VT) in 2012-2021 and expansion into 2 new states (PA and TN) last year.  Data from these evaluations could lead to licensing of this vaccine for broader, more aggressive management of raccoon rabies by the NRMP and partners, with the goal of eliminating the variant of the rabies virus that cycle in raccoons.

The ONRAB bait consists of a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) blister pack, containing the vaccine.  To make the baits attractive, the blister packs are coated with a sweet attractant that includes vegetable-based fats, wax, icing sugar, vegetable oil, artificial marshmallow flavor, and dark-green food-grade dye.  Humans and pets cannot get rabies from contact with the bait.  However, people who encounter baits directly are asked to leave the bait undisturbed.  Should contact with bait occur, immediately rinse the contact area with warm water and soap and contact your local health department at 585-344-2580 ext. 5555 for Genesee County or 585-589-3278 for Orleans County.  Please do not attempt to remove bait from your dog’s mouth.  The bait will not harm the dog.  If you have additional questions related to the field evaluation in New York, please contact the Wildlife Services office in Rensselaer, NY at (518) 477- 4837.

April 28, 2022 - 12:48pm
posted by Press Release in health, health department, news.

Press release:

According to the 2022 County Health Rankings, released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (UWPHI) Genesee and Orleans Counties rank 38th and 54th 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.  With this knowledge, we work collaboratively with our partners to improve the health of our community,” stated Paul Pettit, Director of the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health).  “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 the length of life and quality of life, and Health Factors which include health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment. 

The 2022 County Health Rankings findings are:

  • Genesee County ranked 38 in Health Outcomes and 16 in Health Factors in 2022 as compared to 43 out of 62 counties for Health Outcomes in 2021, a decrease in rank as compared to 2022 and 28 in Health Factors a decrease from 2021. 
  • Orleans County ranked 54 in Health Outcomes and 55 in Health Factors in 2022 as compared to 60 in Health Outcomes in 2021, a decrease in rank as compared to 2022 and 53 in Health Factors an increase in rank from 2021. 

 “The County Health Rankings show us that where people live plays a key role in how long and how well they live,” stated Pettit. “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 2022 Rankings, the five healthiest counties in New York State starting with most healthy are Putnam, followed by Tompkins, Saratoga, Nassau, and New York. The five counties in the poorest health, starting with least healthy are Bronx, Sullivan, Cattaraugus, Montgomery, and Chemung.   

“The County Health Rankings show how Genesee and Orleans Counties rank on factors that influence its overall health ranking,” said Pettit. “For example, Genesee County had a decrease in preventable hospital stays from 4,748 in 2021 to 3,354 in 2022. Genesee County also had a decrease in adults smoking from 23% in 2021 to 19% in 2022.   Orleans County had a decrease in the percentage of adults who smoked from 25% in 2021 to 21% in 2022. Additionally, Orleans County had a decrease in the percentage of adult obesity from 37% to 32%.”

Even with the above mentioned positive trends, both counties continue to have challenge areas and are still struggling with health factors specifically with obesity (Genesee – 33% / Orleans – 32%), adult smoking (Genesee – 19% / Orleans – 21%), and local access to clinical care for primary care physicians, dentists and mental health providers.  Although the numbers for adult smoking did decrease for both counties, we are still above the top U.S Performers at 15% and New York State at 13%. 

The Rankings have become an important tool for communities that want to improve health for all.  Working collaboratively with community partners in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming Counties (GOW), Genesee and Orleans counties are currently working on the GOW 2022-2024 Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan to determine the New York State Prevention Agenda priorities to focus on over the next three years.  We analyze the Rankings along with New York State data and community input from the Community Health Assessment survey and Community Conversations with various community groups and county residents.  If you have not completed a survey you can access the English survey online here or the Spanish survey online here.

For information on Health Department services contact,

  • Genesee County Health Department at: 344-2580 ext. 5555 or visit their website at www.GOHealthNY.org.  Visit Facebook and Twitter at GOHealthNY for both.
  • Orleans County Health Department at: 589-3278 or check out their website at:  www.GOHealthNY.org.  Visit Facebook and Twitter at GOHealthNY for both.
February 28, 2022 - 6:34pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, COVID-19, health department, County Legislature.

Looking at the “community burden” rather than just the number of cases is a key part of the reason for New York State’s shift in COVID-19 masking requirements, according to the public health director for Genesee and Orleans counties.

Paul Pettit, appearing at the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee meeting this afternoon at the Old County Courthouse, updated legislators on some of the factors leading to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s decision to lift the statewide mask requirement in schools starting Wednesday.

“What they did is they started to look at community burden, which looks at not just the number of cases, but now also includes the severity – how it’s impacting our healthcare system and what kind of bed capacity that we have available in the region,” Pettit said. “Those things are now overlaid with the cases, which actually doubled per 100,000; they went from 100,000 to 200,000 for obtaining the high level status.”

He said that the new scenario provides “a better indication of what’s going on with COVID in the community; not just pure numbers.”

Pettit mentioned that the local health department has advocated for months that the state change the metrics by which regions are categorized – and now that has been done as well, moving from low, medium, substantial and high to low, medium and high.

“When they changed this on Friday, they looked at the map and immediately made probably two-thirds of the map go from substantial or high to medium because once you take community burden in place, it puts it at a whole different level,” he said.

Currently, Genesee County is in the medium category, he said, adding that the county’s monitoring of wastewater backs up the extent to which COVID-19 cases are declining.

As far as schools are concerned, Pettit said he has yet to receive official guidance from the state but expects all Genesee County schools to take the optional approach when it comes to wearing masks.

“We’ve been lobbying all year, before school even started, with moving forward with more of a local decision-making choice-based method with this,” he said. “Our schools are positioned – I haven’t talked to them all yet – but the indication is they’re all going to move forward with optional masking starting Wednesday.”

Pettit acknowledged that some students and staff will continue to wear masks.

“That’s their right if they want to do that and it’s their ability to do that,” he said. “We would definitely encourage it if they feel comfortable and they're concerned, that they continue to do that."

He said the health department has masks for all, including smaller ones for the elementary pupils, but, in general, he emphasized that he is happy to see “the shift in all of our schools starting on Wednesday.”

On related topics, Pettit reported:

  • The vaccination rate in Genesee County for those age 5 and older is 66.2 percent for one does and 61.5 percent for the completed series (not including a booster shot). Vaccines continue to be available through the health department and at local pharmacies.
  • There isn’t a strong demand for testing and, in fact, the health department has 15,000 test kits on hand – many coming in now from orders submitted weeks ago.
  • Discussion at the federal level has included development of a vaccine that combines COVID with other viral infections, such as the seasonal flu. Currently, a fourth shot is not being considered.
  • People, including students, who test positive for COVID should stay home for up to five days and wear masks for up to five days after that. Students who ride the bus are exempt from the federal transportation mandate, which means that masks aren’t required unless a student is coming off a positive case.
January 31, 2022 - 8:59pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, health department, Paul Pettit.

pettit_1.jpgThe voices of local health officials pleading with the powers that be in Albany to boost support for county programming are finally being heard.

That’s what Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee and Orleans counties, communicated to members of the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee today as he presented his department’s annual report.

“Ever since I’ve been in my position, we’ve been seeking an increase in Article 6 funding,” said Pettit, (pictured at right) speaking about the section of the Public Health Law that authorizes funding for core services delivered by local health departments. “But, if anything, that has deteriorated over the years as they’ve (state lawmakers) have made more things ineligible.”

Things seem to be changing for the better, Pettit said, as a result of his review of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed 2022-23 state budget.

“As this is our main funding stream … we continue to advocate for (increased funding) on an annual basis,” he said. “Now, (for) the first time the (governor) actually proposed increases in Article 6 funding in her executive budget.

“Again, this is fairly unique. It's never been in the executive budget; we've always lobbied the legislative side for when they put their packages together and it never makes it to the end. So, we are very happy to see that it is in on the front end. And it's fairly significant.”

Pettit said that Article 6 funding for full service health departments (such as Genesee-Orleans) is set to increase from $650,000 to $750,000, and money for “fringe reimbursement” also will go up.

“Public health through Article 6 has never received fringe reimbursement on any of our costs,” he advised. “It's all been local or written off on different grants. We’ve always advocated for it, but it's never been realized. So, the biggest thing in here is that it included up to 50 percent fringe reimbursed on any eligible expenses.”

Fifty percent translates to about $230,000 more to the county health department – bringing the total of state funding through Article 6 to around $1.1 million. Pettit said that kind of money will enable his department to implement key programs, such as lead immunization.

While not official yet, Pettit said he has attended advocacy days in Albany and “everyone we've talked to seemed very supportive; there doesn't seem any appetite of reducing it or taking it out.”

In addition, county health is set to receive $22,000 in performance incentive funds this year, which also can be used for any Article 6-eligible reimbursement, Pettit said.

Pettit touched upon several other aspects of the Genesee and Orleans department, which has been a merged agency for nearly 10 years:

-- Lead poisoning intervention: With the Centers for Disease Controls dropping the permitted levels to 3.5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (and NYS expected to adopt that measure), more people will be eligible for the county's lead program.

Pettit said the department is receiving three grants for its lead program: $1.3 million from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, $250,000 from the CDC and $100,000 annually for five years from the Healthy Neighborhood program that is targeted for the City of Batavia.

“That’s … where you can go in and work with landlords and homeowners ..., making sure their house is safe – smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and those different things,” he said.

-- Cross Jurisdictional Services: The shared services agreement with Orleans County has worked well, both financially and programmatically, Pettit said.

“I think our response to the pandemic and how we've been able to leverage resources and just share our media and our … information that we share with the public -- our public interface with a website -- those have all allowed us to be more efficient and streamlined with our responses,” he said.

Financially, he said the CJS agreement (shared staffing and programming) has saved $275,000 a year over the 9 ½ years – which equals $2.5 million over that time.

Pettit said he hopes that both counties will receive full accreditation from the Public Health Accreditation Board by early next year.

-- Community health assessment: Every four years, local health departments are required to conduct a full community health assessment. In Genesee’s case, it is being done in conjunction with Orleans and Wyoming counties.

“This is a very collaborative process where we work with all the health systems in the counties, and we bring in our different community partners and other departments … to put together our assessment of basically what's going on in our community, as far as access to health care, other types of services that are available,” Pettit said.

A spinoff of that is the Community Health Improvement Plan that utilizes a survey to obtain the public’s views on health care, transportation and other vital health-related subjects.

-- Septic replacement program: More than $110,000 has been given to Genesee County residents in eligible areas in reimbursement costs for upgrading their septic systems, and that program will continue this year.

“These are along definitely some of our higher tributaries and creeks and streams in the county where, again, we don't want to see incidental discharge occurring,” Pettit said.

-- Adult use of cannabis: The state is ramping up its marijuana legalization guidelines, meaning that the health department will be called upon to provide educational information and, possibly, compliance checks along the lines of tobacco enforcement.

January 13, 2022 - 11:31pm
Video Sponsor

Of all the debatable data out there regarding COVID-19, one piece about local hospitalizations is irrefutable, Dan Ireland says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 10, 2022 - 11:59pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, COVID-19, health department, Paul Pettit.
Video Sponsor

If you have been confused or concerned by the flurry of shifting, revised, questioned and debated pieces of information out there for dealing with COVID-19, one solution is pointing straight at you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


December 30, 2021 - 8:02pm
posted by Press Release in health department, health, genesee, Orleans, new year, COVID-19.

Press Release:

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

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

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

December 3, 2021 - 4:45pm
posted by Press Release in genesee county, Orleans County, news, health, health department.

Press Release from Genesee and Orleans County Health Department:

The smell of the evergreen trees, the taste of warm hot cocoa, and the cheerful Christmas songs are some lovely things that bring family and friends together during this festive season. With cold weather moving people indoors, there is also an increased risk of the spread of illnesses such as the flu , also known as influenza. However, there are ways to lower your risk of getting sick with the flu. National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) is December 5-11, 2021. NIVW is an annual observance in December to remind everyone that there is still time to get vaccinated against the flu to be protected during the upcoming winter and holiday months. “You can protect you and your family members by getting vaccinated against the flu each year,” said Paul Pettit, Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments. “The vaccine lowers the chance of getting you and those around you sick with the flu. We also encourage those that have not received the COVID-19 vaccine, to get vaccinated as soon as possible ahead of the Holidays.” The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Experts say that flu viruses are spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. The runny nose, sore throat and slow development of symptoms which are common for a cold, are not as common for the flu which tends to appear suddenly and includes a fever, body aches, chills, fatigue, chest discomfort and cough. Although a cold can be a bother, you usually feel much worse with the flu and sometimes influenza’s complications could be deadly.

Everyone 6 months or older should get a flu vaccine every year. It's best to get the flu vaccine early in flu season, ideally by the end of October. That way, the body develops antibodies in two weeks’ time which provides protection from the influenza virus. You might wonder, is it too late to get vaccinated? The simple answer is no. “Getting the vaccine later is better than not getting it at all,” said Mr. Pettit. “Once you have the flu vaccine, research shows that the vaccination reduces the risk of severe illness if you do get the flu.”

Below are the number of reported flu cases for Genesee and Orleans Counties since 2018 according to the New York State Department of Health. You will notice that there was limited flu in 2020-2021 because people were practicing public health precautions such as frequent hand washing, social distancing, limiting social gatherings, wearing face coverings, and staying home when ill. In addition, less germs were spread because people were staying home and limiting their contact with people outside of their household as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Flu seasons are unpredictable every year, so there is a new flu vaccine developed to potentially provide protection for the viruses that are considered to have the most potential to cause serious illness. As long as flu viruses are spreading and causing illness, vaccination should continue throughout the flu season in order to protect as many people as possible. If you have not received your annual flu vaccine this year, now is the time! It generally takes 2 weeks after receiving the vaccine for your body to develop immunity.

Talk with your primary care provider or visit your local pharmacy to get the flu vaccine. To make an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine, visit the GO Health website: https://gohealthny.org/covid-19-vaccine-information/.

If you want to see weekly flu updates, you can use the NYS Flu Tracker:

https://nyshc.health.ny.gov/web/nyapd/new-york-state-flu-tracker. For more information about Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments, visit www.gohealthny.org. You can also visit Facebook at: Genesee & Orleans County Health Departments, Twitter, and Instagram: @GoHealthNY


November 30, 2021 - 8:58am

A nearly $1 million grant may be on its way to Genesee County Public Health to boost “workforce capacity" in the department's battle against COVID-19 and to enhance efforts in other areas, Public Health Director Paul Pettit said Monday afternoon.

Speaking at the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse, Pettit offered a resolution – which subsequently was approved by the HSC – to accept $980,544 from the New York State Department of Health to recruit, train, deploy and manage the NYS Public Health Corps Fellowship Program.

Touted by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Public Health Corps consists of individuals of all educational levels (“fellows”) that have been accepted to participate in the program designed to “bolster and improve public health workforce capacity,” Pettit said.

The grant will run for two years, through July 31, 2023, he said, with $250,000 of the money allocated in the 2022 budget. The remaining amount will be part of the county’s 2023 budget.

Pettit said he has a list of about 15 people who have applied to join the Public Health Corps.

The HSC also approved a contract with Coastal Staffing of Naples, Fla., to serve as the staffing agency or employer for those selected into the program.

“Genesee County will interview these individuals and if they are hired, then they will go through Coastal Staffing as their employer,” Pettit advised.

In other action related to the health department, the committee gave the go-ahead to accept an $11,000 grant from the National Association of County and City Health Officials for Genesee County to participate in a wastewater surveillance mentorship program. This will run from Jan. 1-July 31, 2022.

Pettit said the money will be used by health department officials to monitor the viral load in municipal wastewater systems throughout the county and to provide guidance and recommendations going forward if necessary.

Both measures will be considered by the full legislature at its Dec. 8 meeting.


Reporting on the current COVID-19 picture in Genesee County, Pettit said the average number of cases per day over the last seven days has been steady at around 34, while the percentage of breakthrough cases is at 30-35 – up about 10 percent from what he had been seeing.

As of yesterday, there were 241 active cases – those in isolation – with 28 of those people in the hospital, he said.

Pettit said that 70 percent of Genesee County residents 18 years of age and older have received at least one vaccine shot, with that number decreasing to 59.6 percent when considering the county’s total population. That is much less than the 90 percent of NYS residents 18 and over who have received at least one shot.

He said the county health department is offering the complete spectrum of vaccinations – first shot, booster and doses for children ages 5-11.

“Booster clinics have been very steady,” Pettit said, adding that early studies show that booster shots provide a significant increase in protection from the coronavirus.

As far as testing is concerned, the county is offering testing once a week and has been meeting the demand. Pettit did point out that testing supplies are beginning to dwindle and if the state doesn’t receive the supply it has ordered, then “free” testing could end in a few months.

November 4, 2021 - 11:57am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, COVID-19, health department.

pettit_head_shot.jpgThe Centers for Disease Control’s approval of a vaccine for 5-11-year-olds provides a new weapon in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic that has buffeted society for going on two years, Genesee & Orleans Public Health Director Paul Pettit said this morning.

Pettit (pictured at right), speaking to the media via Zoom, continued to spread the word about the effectiveness of the three authorized vaccines – Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson – in helping to prevent and reducing the severity of the coronavirus.

He also touched upon this week’s CDC approval (and New York State’s acceptance) of Pfizer’s vaccine for youth in the 5 to 11 age range.

“Under emergency use authorization, it's a little bit different than the full dose Pfizer vaccine for adults,” Pettit said. “It's actually a third of the adult dose, same time period. You're going to have a dose on day one and then you'll also be given a dose 21 days later to be fully vaccinated.

“And again, it'll be two weeks after that second dose that anybody would be considered fully vaccinated. So, it's a five week period, technically, if you look at it from start to finish when you get your first dose.”

He said the one-third dose that was tested showed sufficient antibody response for kids in that age group and has been shown in the trials to be effective at preventing disease and preventing symptoms in those who may again acquire the disease after being fully vaccinated.

Pettit said the COVID-19 vaccines “have undergone the most intensive safety monitoring through the development of it in U.S. history, and vaccinating children will help prevent and protect them from getting COVID-19 and therefore reduce the risk of severe disease hospitalizations and developing long-term COVID complications.”

Children at that age can be carriers of the virus, even if they are asymptomatic, Pettit said.

“They can bring COVID back home to their loved ones, including those that may be more susceptible to severe illness, even if they are vaccinated … So, this is the next tool for us as far as moving forward.”

He said he advises parents to talk to their healthcare providers, mentioning that children – like adults – have varying medical histories.

“We're not giving medical advice here. We are talking about the vaccine and the importance and the role that it will play in protecting children,” he said. "But ultimately, every child has their unique medical history, just like we all do as adults. And we want to make sure that any parents that have any questions or concerns … to become educated, to do your research, to evaluate and look at your own individual situation with your kids and talk to your doctor.”

Pettit spoke on a variety of subjects related to COVID and the activities of the Genesee and Orleans county health departments.


Weekly conference calls with school superintendents continue, Pettit said, adding that, generally speaking, schools are doing well as the health department tracks the number of cases at all districts.

“I would say on average, we're probably around 15 to 20 percent of our active cases are in school aged kids, not necessarily indicating that it's school related spread,” he said. “But these are kids that are positive. So again, that number does vary -- vary up and down.”

The state continues to require masks for everyone indoors at schools – a mandate that has been “frustrating for parents” and “controversial,” Pettit said.

“But ultimately, we have seen a significant improvement in the reduction of quarantines in students this year. And what that has allowed for is better continuity of education. Kids have been able to stay in school and continue to learn in the in-class environment, which is, you know, something that our superintendents have been very vocal about in wanting to make sure we can keep these kids in-person and keep them learning and keep that continuity.”

Pettit mentioned “test and stay” -- a program under consideration by the NYS Department of Health that would allow students testing positive for COVID to remain in school and to avoid a quarantine as long as they are tested every day.

He acknowledged many logistical and supply challenges in implementing this program.

“We are exploring this,” he said. “We're looking at our different funding streams to see if we can … put together the resources to be able to purchase the supplies to get the staffing we need to be able to carry this out.”

Responding to a question from The Batavian on whether discussions are taking place regarding the number of 5-11-year-olds receiving the vaccine and it’s effect on the masking requirement, Pettit said he has not been advised of any verification of what percentage would have to be reached.

He did, however, offer some statistics pertaining to student vaccination rates.

“In Genesee County, the 12-15 age group, we’re at 35 percent vaccinated; the 16-18 at 52.3 percent, and in Orleans County, we’re at 39.1 percent in that 12-15 bucket and 47.1 percent in the 16-18. And the 5 to 11 has just started, so I'm sure we don't have very many there yet,” he said. “But, as far as the masking, that's going to be a decision most likely that's going to be carried out at the state level, not locally.”


Pettit said the positivity rates in both counties are hovering around 20 to 30 positives per day, with active cases typically around 200 to 225.

“We have noticed over the last week or two, though, there has been some regional uptick in cases,” he said. “This isn't necessarily something to be unexpected as it is getting colder out … and as we start to come indoors now, there's obviously increased exposure risk, not just the COVID, but flu and other respiratory illnesses, other viruses.”

He advised everyone to “start refreshing” some of the precautionary measures such as masking and social distancing to minimize the spread -- and to stay home if you aren't feeling well as what may be thought of as a bad cold could actually be COVID.

In Genesee County to date, there have been 7,310 positive cases, with 222 currently in isolation and 15 of those active cases in the hospital. A total of 6,459 have recovered and been removed from isolation, while, unfortunately, there have been 135 deaths, he said.

The average seven-day positivity rate in Genesee County is around 8.1 percent.

As far as vaccination rates are concerned, in Genesee County, 64.6 percent of the population has received at least one dose and 58.6 have received the completed series, he said. The highest percentage is in the 65-74 age range – 83 percent.

As far as breakthrough cases in Genesee County, Pettit said 445 of the 1,891 new cases (23.5 percent) from Aug. 1 through Nov. 1 were contracted by those who had been fully vaccinated.


Booster shots of all three vaccines are available and the ability to “mix and match” is an option, Pettit said.

“So, depending on what vaccine you may have received the first time around, if you want to try something different that has been approved and has been shown to be safe, you are able to move to a different vaccine,” he said. “Again, that's completely up to the individual.”

Parameters that govern when people can get the booster shots exist, depending upon the brand of the shot being administered, he added. That information is available on the GO Health website -- GO Health - Genesee & Orleans Public Health Departments (gohealthny.org)

Pettit said the Moderna booster is a half-dose, while Pfizer and J&J are full doses.

“The booster shots are currently recommended now, especially with the Delta variant circulating,” he said.

Third doses, which are different from boosters, have been available since late August, Pettit said, and are recommended for those with compromised immune systems.

Vaccinations are being administered by the health department on Wednesdays in Genesee County and Thursdays in Orleans County. Testing (BinaxNOW, not PCR) is done on Fridays in Genesee and on Tuesdays in Orleans.

Previously: Pettit: County health department COVID booster shot clinics to begin Wednesday; about 120 signed up

November 1, 2021 - 6:42pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, COVID-19, health department.

GO HealthIt’s full speed ahead for the dispensation of COVID-19 booster shots at the Genesee & Orleans Health Departments.

Public Health Director Paul Pettit, speaking at the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee meeting this afternoon, said GO Health will be conducting its first booster clinic on Wednesday of this week – offering Modern, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer doses.

For Genesee County residents, that means traveling to the health department offices at County Building 2, 3837 West Main St. Rd.

“Booster shots are open for everybody now … and we have about 120 people signed up for the morning (on Wednesday) already – and that’s all Moderna,” Pettit said. “So, that’s obviously leading to some additional demand. But most of our pharmacies are vaccinating, so people are able to go there, usually 9 (a.m.) to 9 (p.m.).”

Specifics of the three booster vaccinations, all at no charge, are as follows:

  • Moderna – 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (Registration deadline, Nov. 3; appointments are limited). Open to those 18 and older with booster eligibility, including previous full vaccination with Pfizer, Moderna, or J&J. This Moderna booster shot registration must be at least six months after receiving the second dose of Moderna or Pfizer, or at least two months after receiving a single dose of J&J.  You also must meet other eligibility requirements associated with age, work, or underlying health conditions as seen at: https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/booster-doses.
  • Pfizer – 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. (Registration deadline: Nov. 3; appointments are limited). Open to those 18 and older with booster eligibility, including previous full vaccination with Pfizer, Moderna or J&J. This Pfizer booster shot registration must be at least six months after receiving the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or at least two months after receiving a single dose of J&J.  You also must meet other eligibility requirements associated with age, work, or underlying health conditions as seen at: https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/booster-doses.
  • Johnson & Johnson – 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. (Registration deadline: Nov. 3; appointments are limited). Open to those 18 and older with booster eligibility, including previous full vaccination with J&J, Pfizer, or Moderna. This J&J booster shot registration must be at least two months after receiving a single dose of J&J, or at least six months after receiving the second dose of Moderna or Pfizer.  You also must meet other eligibility requirements associated with age, work, or underlying health conditions as seen at: https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/booster-doses.

In all cases, proof of identity and original vaccination card (or other proof of your original full vaccination) will be required at the time of your appointment.

Pettit also said he expects to hear soon, possibly tomorrow, that the childhood vaccine for 5-11-year-olds has been approved.

“We’re ramping up and preparing to do some childhood vaccines, probably starting next week, if we get the vaccine in later this week,” he said. “We're going to be running those clinics kind of late afternoon/early evening to afford parents the opportunity to get home from work and come to the clinic if they want.

“Again, the primary focus with that age group, though, is not really to come to us. We'd rather have them go to their pediatrician, where there's a little more comfort and familiarity. Obviously, for those that have gotten child vaccines at that age, sometimes (it's) a little more tricky, especially in a mass setting …"

When asked about people “mixing and matching” the booster shots, Pettit said, “It’s really the ‘Wild Wild West’ on that.”

“I guess if you want to change it up and try something different,” he said. “I'm going to stick with what I got the first time because well, frankly, Moderna is holding up the best of all three.”

Pettit suggested that people speak with their doctors about whether they should switch from what they received the first time. He acknowledged that many people have switched from J&J because that vaccine “has held up probably the least over time now against the Delta variant.”

He said that most of the breakthrough cases (people getting COVID after being vaccinated) are with the J&J vaccine.

“They (J&J) probably should have just done two shots to start with,” he said. “Their two shots basically are the same efficacy as two shots of Moderna or Pfizer. But I think they wanted to offer a simpler path.”

On related topics, Pettit offered the following:

  • Hospital bed capacity.

“As we get in the cold or flu season, you're going to get more and more people come in. I mean, obviously, what they'll (hospitals) start doing is backing off on elective surgeries and things to try to free up more bed capacity. You know, unfortunately, we're heading into the time when we get more access needs to the emergency room and bed capacities.”

  • Current COVID cases.

“Cases are holding fairly steady – we had a little bit of an uptick, I think, over the weekend, compared to where we were last few weekends. But overall, we're averaging around 25 to 30 new cases a day, and on average around 200 or more as far as active cases of folks on isolation.

“Regionally, most people saw a pretty significant increase over the weekend with active cases. So, I mean, it could be attributed to people coming indoors; things closing up – getting a little colder out. You may recall last year, actually, Halloween-ish kicked off a lot of the activity; we had low numbers pretty much through most of October. And then once we got to Halloween, gatherings and parties and things  started happening, and we started seeing an increase in numbers.”

  • Nattural immunity.

“The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) does not recognize natural antibodies for the purposes of avoiding vaccination or for avoiding quarantines, you know, unfortunately. And I think the reason for that is typically we develop antibodies for certain strains. If you have the alpha variant, it may be less effective versus new strains but still affords protection similar to the vaccines, especially in preventing severity of illness.  

“There's a lot of debate over natural immunity versus the vaccines … it's kind of a controversial thing, because, you know, I think it's debatable, one way or the other … I think they've shown -- that the data shows -- that the vaccines provide better protection than natural immunity in this case with COVID, just due to the new variant, especially so. But if you had the Delta variant, I mean, you have immunity from it."

  • New vaccine technology.

“I think this is really when you look at the way they were able to produce this vaccine so quickly. I mean, it's really due to the technology. And I mean, there's a lot of talk now to start using the mRNA approach for flu vaccines and other things. You know, if you think about the window, when they make a flu vaccine, you're looking at what was circulating over in Asia and China -- like coming off in January, February. I mean, they can wait now until April or May, and get the mutations in there, and they can produce a vaccine in a month or a couple months, You're going to get a better efficacy out of that vaccine.”

October 6, 2021 - 2:01pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, COVID-19, health department.

Twenty-two students, teachers and staff at Genesee County school districts are listed as “new positives” as of Tuesday on New York State’s COVID Report Card dashboard.

Of that number, 15 are students, three are teachers and four are staff members, and of the students, five are in the Batavia City School District, four in Le Roy and Oakfield-Alabama and one in Pavilion and Pembroke.

The numbers also include two Elba teachers and one Pavilion teacher, and three Le Roy employees and one O-A employee.

Since Sept. 13, however, per data reported by the individual schools, 174 students, teachers and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus, with 74 of those at Batavia and 50 at Le Roy – the county’s two largest schools.

At Batavia, 69 of those 74 are students, while three are teachers and two are staff members. At Le Roy, 38 of those 50 are students, while one is a teacher and 11 are staff members.

Breaking down those numbers further:

  • From Sept. 22 to Oct. 5, Batavia – 45 students, one teacher, two staff; Le Roy – 24 students, no teachers, 10 staff.
  • From Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, Batavia – 26 students, one teacher, two staff; Le Roy – nine students, no teachers and nine staff.

COVID-19 positives are low at other school districts, with Alexander reporting no cases at all since Sept. 13 and Notre Dame just two – with none in the last 14 or seven days.

Data from other schools is as follows:

  • Byron-Bergen: 15 students, two teachers, one staff since Sept. 13; five students, no teachers, one staff from Sept. 22 through Oct. 5; four students, no teachers, one staff from Sept. 29 through Oct. 5.
  • Elba: No students, two teachers, no staff for all reporting dates.
  • Oakfield-Alabama: 15 students, no teachers, two staff since Sept. 13; 11 students, no teachers, two staff from Sept. 22 through Oct. 5; five students, no teachers, two staff from Sept. 29 through Oct. 5.
  • Pavilion: Three students, one teacher, no staff since Sept. 13; two students, one teachers, no staff from Sept. 22 through Oct. 5; one student, one teacher, no staff from Sept. 29 through Oct. 5.
  • Pembroke: Five students, two teachers, no staff since Sept. 13; three students, two teachers, no staff from Sept. 22 through Oct. 5; two students, two teachers, no staff from Sept. 29 through Oct. 5.


In an effort to make it easier for school districts to interact with health care professionals, the Genesee County Health Department, as part of its comprehensive COVID testing plan, has set up a contract with Mobile TeleMed LLC of Buffalo to provide in-school telehealth sessions at no charge to school districts through July 2022.

“Schools that want to participate will be able to have a Telehealth cart down at the nurses’ office where students and/or staff come down and engage with varying levels,” Public Health Director Paul Pettit said.

“It could be a lower level, an RN (Registered Nurse), or mid-level, an NP (Nurse Practitioner), PA (Physician’s Assistant) or even a physician, where they can have that engagement in real time, on site, through the Telecart, and they can provide potentially a diagnosis, whether it’s COVID, along with on-site testing. There are a lot of ways they can leverage that relationship right at school.”

Pettit said this program could take the place of parents having to go to the doctor’s office after they get out of work or go to urgent care centers.

“We’re pretty confident that this type of technology will help us to avoid some of those unnecessary visits and allowed it to be taken care of right on site,” he said.

Pettit said Le Roy Central School district is very interested in participating.

 “We need the schools to sign on. We believe that Le Roy is very close. We’ve been working with them and have a couple of carts there.”

Le Roy Superintendent Merritt Holly confirmed that the district is “exploring the possibility and how we can further assist and help our students and families.”

The program is being funded by a grant to the health department, Pettit said, adding that the school district will contract directly with TeleMed, which will handle billing to the students’ family. Parents would need to sign consent forms for their children to access the videoconference technology.

“My hope is that this will be a sustainable access to care beyond COVID,” Pettit said. “Obviously, they (schools) would have to fund it after that point (after July 31, 2022). If the school found value in continuing to have something like this for their staff and their students, they could continue on past our grant funds. They’d already have the relationship and they could continue to use it as a way to engage health care.”

Fees (which will be paid for by the grant for through next July) are as follows:

  • Base pricing per district is $1,200 per cart per month, plus $500 for training and implementation.
  • Small school pricing is set at $2 per district student per month, starting at a minimum cost of $800 per month plus the $500 training and implementation charge.

Pettit said COVID testing is taking place in local schools, with testing kits provided by the county.

The Genesee County Legislature is expected to vote on the contract with Mobile TeleMed at its Oct. 13th meeting.


Update, Oct. 7, 9 a.m.:

A check of the NYS COVID Report Card this morning reveals that under the Lab Reported category, Alexander Central School District has had an estimated 18 positive cases among students since Sept. 1, 14 from Sept. 23-Oct. 6, nine from Sept. 30-Oct. 6, and one since Oct. 6. Lab Reported numbers and School Reported numbers can vary. As indicated in the story above, Alexander CSD apparently did not report positive cases to the state Department of Health or its report was not received.

September 9, 2021 - 11:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in health department, news.

Press release:

The Community Health Assessment (CHA) is a document required by public health law that identifies the key health needs and issues of the community through systematic, comprehensive data collection; community conversations; and analysis. The current CHA includes Genesee, Orleans, and Wyoming Counties (GOW) and covers three years (2019-2021). All three health departments along with our community partners will be starting the process of developing the new CHA that will encompass the years 2022-2024. 

The Community Health Assessment is developed using a collaborative process of many partners throughout the GOW region. Local hospitals including Rochester Regional Health at United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC), Orleans Community Health (OCH), and Wyoming County Community Health System (WCCHS) along with the Genesee, Orleans, and Wyoming (GOW) County Departments of Public Health work collaboratively with county residents and community based organizations of the GOW Counties to develop the assessment. 

“The Community Health Assessment provides us with comprehensive information about the health status, needs and issues that are facing the residents living in our communities,” stated Paul Pettit, Director of Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “The information in this assessment helps us develop our Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) and helps direct where our resources should be allocated to best meet the needs of our communities.” 

We are seeking feedback on our current Community Health Assessment to help inform the next version of the CHA and welcome any comments and suggestions from community residents and our partners. Here is the link to the current CHA (https://gohealthny.org/go-health-news/) and the feedback survey can be found at the gohealthny.org website or https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GOWCHAFeedbackSurvey.  

August 31, 2021 - 3:14pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, COVID-19, health department.

Now that a statewide universal masking mandate is in place for all persons in school buildings, a requirement that all teachers and staff be fully vaccinated could be next.

Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee and Orleans counties, this afternoon said he has heard that Gov. Kathy Hochul is advocating for that to happen, just as she did in instructing the New York State Department of Health to issue the mask mandate -- even after many school districts had developed their own reopening plans based on information that there would be no state guidance.

"The governor is exploring working on requirements for teachers and staff to become vaccinated, or provide and submit to weekly testing that is not in place currently – although we do know that it is one of her initiatives and desires to do that if she does end up with the authority to make that happen," Pettit said on the Zoom call.

To prepare for this situation, Pettit said the local health department is working with schools on testing.

"We do have funds to provide testing supplies to the schools so we’re in the process of getting that to them so they will have that available in their schools for staff or students to provide that onsite," he said.

Pettit admitted that the changing directives pertaining to masks in schools over the past three weeks "has been confusing, and frankly, a ittle frustrating, especially for our superintendents who have really worked hard in the lack of overall state guidance to come up with local plans that accommodated for CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines but also took into account the variance and differences from district to district."

He said his recommendation to superintendents -- who he meets with on a regular basis -- was to use CDC guidance as a blueprint to develop their plans "but ultimately the final decisions on what to include and how it was going to look in every school district was, obviously, we were leaving it up to the local district."

"Some districts already came out with their plans prior to the masking mandate," he noted. "Some we’re waiting to see what happened with the new governor coming in. But, either way, now we do have a new statewide mandate for universal masking which has been put in place by Governor Hochul."

Despite the change of direction, Pettit said the "collective goal all along" for everyone involved was to have all students return to in-person learning this school year ... "and to do it with as few disruptions to that end as possible."

Pettit said the local health department will continue to advocate for local autonomy, something it has been doing throughout the pandemic.

"We’re going to continue to support our schools and the districts as we’re able to," he said, adding that with universal masking in place, the need to quarantine people likely will be reduced. He said CDC guidelines do not require or recommend quarantining exposures to positive cases if both the case and the other contacts were fully masked.

The health director spoke about several other topics related to the coronavirus, as follows:


Genesee County:

  • Number of positives is at 5,615, with 77 active cases (15 hospitalized).
  • Recovered: 4,947. Deaths: 124 (per NYS data).
  • Positivity rate is 5.8 percent over the last seven days, with 114 positive tests out of 1,955 who have been tested.

In August, the county has had 253 cases, with 78 of those people fully vaccinated and 175 not fully vaccinated or status unknown. The breakthrough rate is 30.8 percent.

Orleans County:

  • Number of positives is at 3,304 total positives, with 64 active cases (two hospitalized).
  • Recovered: 2,844. Deaths: 83 (since the beginning of the pandemic).
  • Positivity rate: 5.3 percent over the last seven days, with 55 positive tests out of 1,039 who have been tested.

In August, the county has had 199 cases, with 34 of those people fully vaccinated and 165 not fully vaccinated or status unknown. The breakthrough rate is 17.1 percent.

Pettit said as far as the breakthrough cases, the symptoms aren’t severe or asymptomatic, meaning that the vaccine is working.


Pettit emphasized that health department personnel's main focus is on the unvaccinated, and encouraged those who haven't taken the vaccine to do so -- especially now that the Pfizer vaccine has been fully approved by the Food & Drug Administration. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still under "emergency use authorization" but are in the process of getting FDA approval.

He said approval for the vaccine to be administered to children 12 and under could happen within the next three months, and that vaccine will be available through the Genesee and Orleans health departments.

People with compromised immune systems or other medical issues will be eligible for a third dose of the vaccine, he said, which also will be available locally.

Concerning booster shots, Pettit said this vaccine will "build up and booster up immunity." Booster shots could be available as soon as Sept. 20, he mentioned, for those who had been fully vaccinated at least six months to eight months prior.

Statistically, in Genesee County 30,078 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine (60.2 percent), with the percentage of those who are fully vaccinated at 53.9. In Orleans County, the numbers are 18,999 (55.4 percent) and 48.6 percent.


  • Both Genesee and Orleans are classified by the CDC as a "high" level of community transmission, based on a seven-day rolling average. Pettit said most of the state and nation are at that level.
  • He said that expiration dates on vaccination cards or Excelsior Pass aren't etched in stone as they were derived from data compiled at that time. He did recommend a booster shot, but said those not getting one still are considered fully vaccinated.
  • There are no local mandates on masking, but the guidance is to adhered to CDC recommendations to reduce spread as much as possible.
  • Local testing is provided by both counties on a weekly basis, currently one day a week (see link below). He said testing is getting more scarce as the level of vaccination increases.
  • Pettit said the health department is unable to verify the results of home test kits as they aren't being reported to the state system.
  • With flu season around the corner, Pettit advised all to follow public health guidelines -- avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; wash your hands frequently; stay six feet away from others; if you're sick, stay home.


CDC Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools:

NYS Department of Education- Health and Safety Guide for the 2021-2022 School Year:

Testing link for both counties:

COVID data is updated on Genesee/Orleans Health Department emergin Issues page on Mondays and Thursdays in the afternoon:

Daily (Monday-Friday except Holidays):

NYSDOH Vaccine Tracker:


Subscribe to The Batavian - Local Matters

Copyright © 2008-2022 The Batavian. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service

blue button

News Break