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November 27, 2020 - 2:11pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, batavia, crime, notify.

Ridge A. Bono, 29, of Williams Street, Batavia, is charged with: second-degree strangulation; endangering the welfare of a child; second-degree harassment; and resisting arrest. Bono was arrested after an investigation of a domestic incident on Williams Street at noon on Nov. 12. The defendant allegedly resisted arrest when officers tried to take him into custody. Bono was arraigned in Batavia City Court and put in Genesee County Jail. The defendant was due back in city court on Nov. 24. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer John Gombos, assisted by Officer Sean Wilson.

Daniel J. Christie, 31, of Dellinger Avenue, Batavia, is charged with third-degree criminal mischief. Christie was arrested after an incident at noon on Nov. 18 in which he is accused of breaking a door on Dellinger Avenue that did not belong to him. He was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court on Feb. 9. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Adam Tucker, assisted by Officer Peter Post.

Danny D. Williams Sr., 32, of Ellicott Street, Batavia, is charged with second-degree harassment. Williams was arrested after an incident at 1 p.m. on Sept. 29 during which he allegedly threatened physical violence against another person. He was issued an appearance ticket for Jan. 5 in Batavia City Court. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Cronmiller.

November 26, 2020 - 11:18am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Le Roy Police, Chief Chris Hayward.

kellogg_1.jpgAs proud as Le Roy Police Sgt. Greg Kellogg is about accomplishing a lifelong dream, his late mother, Patricia, would have been even more delighted.

“She always knew that I eventually would be a police officer,” said Kellogg, (photo at right), who has been appointed by Village Mayor Greg Rogers to succeed Chris Hayward as chief of the Le Roy Police Department.

Kellogg’s first day as the leader of the 18-member agency is Jan. 9 – the day after Hayward steps down after 35 years with the department.

He said he is dedicating his career to the memory of his mom, who lived in Le Roy until her passing in 2019.

The 35-year-old York Central School graduate grew up in Livingston County but has spent the past 17 years as a Genesee County resident. Hired by Hayward as a part-time officer in 2015, Kellogg said he believes this is where he is supposed to be.

“Getting into law enforcement is something that I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “I completed an internship with the Le Roy Police Department back when I was 16 years old with Chief Hayward, who was a sergeant, himself, at that time.”

Kellogg said he completed other internships and worked in the private sector, gaining administrative and management experience as a loss prevention investigator/supervisor for Six Flags Darien Lake.

“I really enjoyed working at Darien Lake – at one time I supervised 100 seasonal security guards, EMTs (emergency medical technicians) and safety officers – but again, I always knew I wanted to get into law enforcement,” he said, noting that he worked at the amusement park for 13 years prior to leaving in 2016.

The year before, he successfully completed the Rural Police Training Academy course at Genesee Community College, and began his career in Le Roy, while also working for the Perry and Attica police departments on a part-time basis.

In 2016, Kellogg moved into a full-time role in Le Roy, and in 2019 he was promoted to sergeant.

He said when he learned that Hayward was going to retire, he jumped at the chance. He went through the interview process with a panel of business owners, church and civic leaders and police department personnel, and passed the test with flying colors.

Rogers said the department is fortunate to have Kellogg as part of the village law enforcement team.

“We have been impressed with him every day he comes to work. He’s on top of everything,” Rogers said. “While I haven’t looked forward to the day when we’d have to replace Chris, having a candidate like Greg makes it a lot easier.”

Kellogg said he is grateful for the trust placed in him by village officials.

“I’m proud and humbled to take on this role; it truly is an honor,” he said. “It’s something I’ve worked toward for a long time and I look forward to continue the community policing -- the things we’ve been involved in.”

Submitted photo.

November 25, 2020 - 4:54pm
posted by Press Release in covid-19, news, coronavirus, notify.

Press release:

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, both Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments will be closed on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 26th & 27th. We will not be updating the websites or the maps on these days and over the weekend. Our next update will be Monday afternoon to include data from today after 2 p.m. until Monday afternoon.

Many of our staff will be working to handle investigations and quarantine related issues. We hope you have a safe, healthy and Happy Thanksgiving.

Over this weekend, we can’t stress enough the importance to limit time with non-household members. Continue to do your best to limit the spread of COVID-19 and the flu by frequently washing/sanitizing your hands, wear a mask/face-covering over your mouth and nose when out in public and keep at least 6 feet from non-household members.

If you are not feeling well, please stay home and contact your primary care provider for guidance.

New Positives – As of 2 p.m.

  • Genesee County received 34 new positive cases of COVID-19.
    • The new positive cases reside in Alexander, Batavia, Bergen, Elba, Le Roy, Oakfield, Pembroke and Stafford. 
    • The individuals are in their 0-19s, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. 
    • Eight of the individuals were on mandatory quarantine prior to testing positive.
    • Fourteen of the previous positive individuals have recovered and have been removed from the isolation list.
    • Sixteen of the current positive individuals are hospitalized.
  • Orleans County received 11 new positive cases of COVID-19.
  • The new positive cases reside Albion, Gaines, Clarendon, Murray, Ridgeway and Shelby.
  • The individuals are in their 0-19s, 20s, 40s, 50s and 60s.
  • None of the individuals were on mandatory quarantine prior to testing positive.
  • Four of the previous positive individuals have recovered and have been removed from the isolation list.

Two of the current positive individuals are hospitalized.

November 25, 2020 - 4:46pm

Health Alert

The Genesee County Health Department has received a positive COVID-19 test from an individual who was at Kelly’s Holland Inn in Batavia (25 Evans St.) on:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 17th between the hours of 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 18th between the hours of 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Thursday, Nov. 19th between the hours of 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Friday, Nov. 20th between the hours of 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Contact tracing is in progress; however unidentified individuals may have unknowingly been in contact with the positive case. 

We advise all individuals who were at Kelly’s Holland Inn on the stated dates and times to monitor their symptoms for 14 days.

If symptoms of COVID-19 develop, contact your primary care provider to seek testing immediately and self-isolate until you receive your test results.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include but are not limited to: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea.

For more information please visit: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/home.

November 25, 2020 - 1:59pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, crime, notify, batavia, pembroke, Darien.

Alonzo C. Williams, 44, of Watson Street, Batavia, is charged with: criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree, a Class B felony; and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, also a Class B felony. He was arrested after an investigation by the Genesee County Local Drug Enforcement Task Force, which is comprised of officers from the Sheriff's Office, Batavia Police Department and Le Roy Village Police Department. It is alleged that Williams sold a quantity of crack cocaine to an agent of the drug task force. Williams, who had an active arrest warrant, was located driving on North Street in the City of Batavia and he was taken into custody. Williams was arraigned in Genesee County Court, then released on his own recognizance. The drug task force was assisted by uniformed deputies, Batavia police and the District Attorney's Office.

Michael Eugene Weichman, 25, Pratt Road, Batavia, is charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief, third-degree assault, and criminal obstruction of breathing. On Nov. 22, the Genesee County Sheriff's Office received a report of a domestic incident that occurred at 5 p.m. on Nov. 19 on Pratt Road. Weichman was identified as the suspect, then arrested and arraigned virtually at Genesee County Jail. A NYS parole detainer was put in place for Weichman and he remains in jail. The case was handled by Deputy Ryan DeLong, assisted by Deputy Howard Wilson. Sgt. Andrew Hale also assisted in the case.

Shawn Phillip Wolcott, 38, of South Main Street Road, Batavia, is charged with second-degree criminal contempt and obstruction of governmental administration in the second degree. Following a complaint of a violation of a court order, Wolcott was arrested at 4:49 p.m. on Nov. 22 on South Main Street Road. During his arrest he allegedly obstructed deputies by barricading himself in his home. Wolcott was released with an appearance ticket and is due in Town of Batavia Court on Dec. 10. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Kyle Krzemien, assisted by Deputy Jacob Gauthier.

Richard David Trykowski III, 39, Tinkham Road, Darien, is charged with: aggravated unlicensed operation in the first degree; aggravated driving while intoxicated -- BAC of .18 percent or more; DWI -- first offense; moving from lane unsafely; unreasonable speed; and consumption of alcohol in a motor vehicle. Trykowski was arrested after an investigation of a one-car accident that occurred at 10:07 p.m. on Nov. 22 on South Lake Road in Pembroke. He was issued appearance tickets and is due in Pembroke Town Court on Jan. 7. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Kyle Krzemien, assisted by Deputy Jacob Gauthier.

November 25, 2020 - 11:24am

It’s safe to say that Andrew Maguire, director of economic development for the Batavia Development Corporation, is thankful that several City of Batavia projects are progressing smoothly with the November holiday just one day away.

Maguire, at this morning’s BDC meeting via Zoom videoconferencing, updated the organization’s directors on the project tracking of four Building Improvement Fund ventures as well as three projects identified through the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative program.

Building Improvement Fund

  • 109-111 Main St., Eli Fish Brewing Co. building. Maguire said the project, which calls for construction of three third-floor apartments, went out to bid last week and is being vetted through contractors.

The project is receiving $137,600 of the $600,000 in Building Improvement Funds that the BDC was awarded via the DRI.

“Hopefully, we get some really good bids back next month or in January so Matt (Gray) can get started,” he said.

  • 206 E. Main St., Main Street Pizza Co. building. Maguire said the owner, Paul Marchese, is working with his architectural firm to finalize his designs.

“After that, we will run it through code and zoning to make sure there are no major issues. I’m hoping that can go out to bid in December sometime,” he said.

This project, which calls for two second-floor apartments in its initial phase, also qualified for $137,600 in Building Improvement Funds and another $75,000 through the New York Main Street grant program.

  • 242 Ellicott St., corner of Ellicott Street. Maguire said the work – rehabilitating a one-bedroom unit upstairs along with numerous exterior improvements – is almost done.

The project was awarded $27,200 in NYMS funds.

  • 39-43 Jackson St. (Art Ah La Carte, Gilliana’s Diner, Michael Anthony’s Hair Salon). Maguire said the project, which received $100,000 in BIF money, calls for façade work on the entire building and work on the roof as well.

“SBI (Single Burning Item) testing results came back – they were negative, as in positive, which is a good thing,” he said. “We wanted that to be negative so (the owner) doesn’t have any more hoops to jump through with ventilation systems and things of that nature. We will be working with the state to get plans finalized and get it out to bid.”

Downtown Revitalization Initiative

Maguire informed directors that the City Planning & Development Committee approved a redesign of the elevator shaft of the Ellicott Place (Save-A-Lot) project, design engineers are meeting frequently to finalize plans for the Healthy Living Campus (YMCA) and City Council expects to approve a design firm for the Jackson Square project next month.

November 24, 2020 - 5:13pm
posted by Press Release in covid-19, coronavirus, news, notify.


Press release:

  • Genesee County received 64 new positive cases of COVID-19.
    • The new positive cases reside in Alabama, Alexander, Batavia, Bergen, Bethany, Byron, Darien, Elba, Le Roy, Oakfield, Pavilion, Pembroke and Stafford.
    • The individuals are in their 0-19s, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s.
    • Five of the individuals were on mandatory quarantine prior to testing positive.
    • Thirty of the previous positive individuals have recovered and have been removed from the isolation list.
    • Thirteen of the current positive individuals are hospitalized.
    • Genesee County is saddened to report a community member who was positive for COVID-19 passed away. The individual was under the age of 65. To protect the individual’s privacy we will not be reporting any further information. Our deepest condolences to this person’s family and friends on their loss during this very difficult time.
  • Orleans County received five new positive cases of COVID-19.
    • The new positive cases reside in Barre, Carlton, Clarendon, Murray and Kendall.
    • The individuals are in their 0-19s, 20s, 40s, and 60s.
    • One individual was on mandatory quarantine prior to testing positive.
    • Six of the previous positive individuals have recovered and have been removed from the isolation list.
    • Two of the current positive individuals are hospitalized.


November 24, 2020 - 3:56pm

Health Alert

The Genesee County Health Department is alerting the public to possible COVID-19 exposures at the Le Roy Moose Lodge and the Flying J Travel Center in Pembroke. Contact tracing is in progress; however unidentified individuals may have unknowingly been in contact with the positive cases.

Le Roy Moose Lodge:

  • Monday, Nov. 16th between the hours of 8 and 10 p.m.
  • Friday, Nov. 20th between the hour of 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 21st between the hours of 4 and 7 p.m.

Flying J Travel Center:

  • Tuesday, Nov 17th between the hours of 3 and 10 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 18th between the hours of 3 and 11 p.m.
  • Thursday, Nov. 19th between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

We advise all individuals who were at the Le Roy Moose Lodge or the Flying J Travel Center on the stated dates and times to monitor their symptoms for 14 days.

If symptoms of COVID-19 develop, contact your primary care provider to seek testing immediately and self-isolate until you receive your test results.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include but are not limited to: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea.

For more information please visit: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/home

November 24, 2020 - 9:27am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, city council, city of batavia fire department.



The spirit of Thanksgiving filled the Council Board Room at the City Centre on Monday night when two City of Batavia firefighters were honored upon their retirement and the department received “invaluable” parting gifts from one of them in return.

Council members Robert Bialkowski and Kathleen Briggs read proclamations recognizing the work of Tom Douglas and Tim Stengel, who served the city for 22 and 20 years, respectively.

After each of the men had a chance to briefly express their feelings, Douglas presented – to a standing ovation -- the department with 10 personal thermal imaging cameras for each crew member to have when confronting a fire.

“We’ve always both believed that when you’re done with something, you should give something back,” Douglas said, looking at his wife, Debbie, who stood by his side.

He said he brought his idea to fellow employees, Adam Palumbo (the union president) and to Chief Stefano Napolitano and “we all came to an agreement.”

Douglas said the cameras will help keep firefighters safe.

“If we get a big incident, we’re covering a large warehouse or something, trying to find something, we’ve got two or three cameras,” he said. “Now, each one of the guys on the crew will have a personal camera that can go in to either help them find what they need or else to help them get out or locate a body and things like that.”

Napolitano, acknowledging the generous gift, said that “unless you’re in our line of work, you don’t really realize what an invaluable tool this is.”

“The ability of each firefighter to carry their own personal imaging camera while they’re inside of a structure doing an initial size-up is invaluable. This is an example of Tom and Tim as senior firefighters, even in retirement, they’re still giving and still mentoring.”

The chief said losing their experience hurts the department, but he is proud to know that the younger firefighters have “learned from two of the best.”

“The result is they learned how to become a senior firefighter because they’re going to do things better, they’re going to do things more smartly,” he said. “These 10 tools are going to enhance getting them to where you two guys are.”

Douglas started as part of the city’s ambulance crew before being promoted to firefighter in September 2000. He was respected as the driving force behind the department’s Emergency Medical Services program, being certified in several areas. He retired on Oct. 15.

Stengel, who retired on May 26, was recognized for being a mentor to new employees by sharing his knowledge and his professionalism.

Both expressed their love for the community and thanked city leaders, coworkers and family for their support.

Top photo: City Council Member Robert Bialkowski and retired firefighter Tom Douglas; bottom photo, City Council Member Kathleen Briggs and retired firefighter Tim Stengel. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

November 23, 2020 - 9:09pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, City of Batavia Youth Board.

Keep City of Batavia afterschool youth services in the same building. Provide the same service or better. And do it for the same money or less.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. cut to the chase tonight, starting a discussion about the municipality’s youth bureau with this clear directive to Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski. He also said it is imperative that the City of Batavia Youth Board is involved in the process.

“I would request that she (Tabelski) pursue cost-saving measures involving the Youth Bureau – Youth Board and the Youth Bureau – to not cut any services and to not move the building,” Jankowski said at the Council Conference Meeting at City Centre Council Board Room.

“In other words, I want the same services and I want the same building on the Southside – the Liberty Center (for Youth) on the City Church St. Anthony’s campus on Liberty Street – where it is now. So, that’s your starting point, and if you could please explore options of finding alternative ways to provide that service for less money. And please include the Youth Board in your discussions, so they have some input on it.”

With that, city management and the Youth Board, which serves at the direction of City Council in an advisory role, will explore ways to continue to effectively and efficiently provide afterschool and summer programming for Batavia’s young people.

The future of City of Batavia youth services became a somewhat heated topic earlier this month when a resolution to dissolve, a year early, a longstanding joint agreement between the city and county to share a youth bureau executive director came before two Genesee County Legislature committees.

It was presented as a cost savings for the city, which shares the expense of the director, Jocelyn Sikorski. The county’s Human Services Committee passed the resolution, but the Ways & Means Committee tabled it after learning of objections outlined in a letter sent to the media by the Youth Board.

Youth Board members stated that they were not asked for their opinion and were wary of putting city youth services into the hands of an outside entity.  Youth Board members David Twichell and Paula Fischer voiced their concerns at the last City Council meeting, fearing that a contract for the Genesee Area YMCA to run the program was a “done deal.”

Tonight, it seems as though city leaders and the Youth Board have settled their differences, according to Fischer, who was at the meeting.

“I have been in a lot of phone communication today with Dave Twichell, our president of the Youth Board, and with President Jankowski,” she said. “Everything has been very positive. I guess I expect things to move a little bit quicker when somebody says ‘let’s set up a meeting’ but I talked with the Council president and I said that we will be patient and work together.”

Fischer said what Council agreed to tonight was “what we wanted after the last Council meeting, so I’m very excited to move ahead and work with City Council and the city manager to retain the same level of services – and ‘reimagine’ youth services as our governor says all the time.”

“So, we’re going to reimagine youth services and we’re going to keep the same level of services as dictated by Council. So, it’s all very positive,” she said.

Council Member Al McGinnis, liaison to the Youth Board, noted Twichell and Fischer’s 20 years of combined service to city youth as he relayed the former’s request.

“Dave has three suggestions, that’s all they are, suggestions from the Youth Board for us,” McGinnis said. “One is to sever as of Jan. 1 an agreement with the county as planned by Rachael and Jocelyn. We restore the full-time position from Lydia Schauf (who left city employment for another job following a hiring freeze) and plan the reopening of Liberty Center – and again, they are well aware of COVID and also well aware of the budget restraints that we will be facing.”

McGinnis said the Youth Board wishes to retain the Liberty Center and as many summer programs as possible.

“We’re not trying to massage any egos here; all we’re trying to do is what is best for the children – the youth of Batavia – and for the city taxpayers,” he said.

He also said that if the city did contract with the YMCA, the Youth Board would continue to exist and serve in an advisory capacity, and that City Council would continue to have a member on the Youth Board.

McGinnis said that a meeting of the Youth Board is scheduled for Dec. 15, and it was his hope that a “compromise” could be worked out.

Jankowski quickly reiterated that what he said is “just directing” and suggested scheduling a meeting of all parties prior to the Youth Board’s regular meeting on the 15th.

“I would just ask the public and the Youth Board’s patience because right now my main priority as a Council member is the safety of the community under this pandemic … and at best, there’s really not much that is going to happen with the Youth Board until spring. It doesn’t mean that we have to wait until spring to discuss it.”

After that, Council Member Robert Bialkowski requested to see a spreadsheet of all costs related to youth services (Fischer said the yearly budget is around $168,000). He also asked about the possibility of a 'request for proposal' to go out to interested outside organizations to avoid any preferential treatment.

Jankowski said the city already has a contract with the YMCA at the Liberty Center and questioned the feasibility of bringing in another company. In any event, he again emphasized that it is Tabelski’s responsibility to look into these aspects and that no plan is in place at this time.

Council Member Rose Mary Christian applauded City Church staff for the way it has run its youth activities in recent years and made it clear she is in favor of keeping city youth services at the Liberty Street location.

“I certainly, definitely do not want it to move from that area,” she said. “There’s a lot of children. Their parents don’t drive … We don’t need to have the kids out on the street. They need something structured for them so they can become … responsible young adults.”

Previously: Council member vows not to cut city youth services, assures advisory board that it will be involved

Previously: City Youth Board at odds with management over future of afterschool, summer programs; county takes a step back

Previously: County's termination of youth bureau agreement to save City of Batavia $20K next year

November 23, 2020 - 6:17pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify.

Genesee County is the worst performing county in the Finger Lakes Region as far as COVID-19 cases are concerned, County Manager Matt Landers said minutes ago at the County Legislature meeting being conducted via Zoom videoconferencing.

"Our numbers for the county are abysmal," he said, adding that Genesee's numbers are significantly higher than the other counties in the Finger Lakes Region, including Monroe County. "Our 7-day rolling average jumped up to just under 6 percent.

"Every other county is hovering a 4 (percent) or less. We are on an island of not following guidelines that are in front of us, and I am very fearful that this will lead up to a Yellow zone designation or worse."

Landers said the county is "not on the right path," mentioning that there were 77 cases over the weekend in Genesee, including a record-high 34 on Saturday. He said the county has probably doubled its positive count from the entire eight months in this last month.

He said he sent an email out informing the legislature and department heads about an hour ago of the latest data.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said this is going to have an impact on local businesses.

"They (businesses) are going to take the brunt of behavior of our community members who can not stay apart -- and that's the sadness here," she said.

Landers said that regardless of whether people believe in the masks or believe in the pandemic, he is hoping that "we can appeal to a side of trying to keep our local businesses open ... and it is very alarming and disheartening."

He also said he thinks this situation is avoidable and plans to address the public on WBTA Radio tomorrow with Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee and Orleans counties.

"We're on a path now that is not sustainable to help our community," Landers said.

Legislator Marianne Clattenburg placed the blame on New York State for its failure to increase testing capacity in Genesee County and all rural counties, in general.

"Rural counties have been ignored and it's not a surprise to me when you see the spikes in the rural areas," she said. "When you have to wait so long to get a test back and by that time, people are out and about and the contacts have been had before the test results get back."

Clattenburg said she sees people wearing masks but the problem is that they are out in the community -- and likely positive for the coronavirus -- but don't know they are positive.

"We're really at a disadvantage compared to our neighbors in Buffalo and Rochester, and it's really a shame," she said.

Landers said he agrees, in part, since Genesee doesn't have the drive-through testing sites as are in place in Monroe, Niagara and Erie counties, but he also pointed out that even the smaller counties are at 4 percent or less and Genesee is at 6 percent.

"We had a few gatherings over the past week or two and now they have gone on to the second and third level, and testing certainly is an issue," he said. "I expressed that concern to the (Finger Lakes Region) control room and I will keep on ... we need more testing."

In another development, the full legislature formally adopted the 2021 county budget, a $143,204,679 All Funds spending plan that calls for a property tax rate of $9.80 per thousand of assessed value -- down 31 cents from the 2020 tax rate.

The amount to be raised by property taxes is $31,451,727 to be raised by property taxes – an increase of $400,069 from 2020.

The county’s General Fund budget has been set at $110,276,137.

November 23, 2020 - 4:47pm
posted by Billie Owens in Oakfield, news, grain bin rescue, notify.

An Oakfield man is extremely fortunate that he was not seriously injured or worse after getting stuck inside a massive silo filled with corn silage on Lockport Road in Oakfield today.

Quick thinking and fast action by the property owner's wife and farmworkers helped to stabilize the man until rescuers and their equipment arrived.

According to Oakfield Second Assistant Fire Chief Pete Scheiber, the man was inside the silo trying to unplug an area, when he became trapped up to his knees. While trying to get free from what amounts to quicksand, he soon found himself waist deep in kernals.

Seven people went inside the bin and put their training for this kind of scenario to the test. In addition to the homeowner's wife, they included Gary Patnode, Christine Marinaccio, Mark Holley, Michael Pfendler, Ryan Hart and Mark Mikolajczyk.

They used a rope and other tools to stabilize him and keep him from sinking down further then called 9-1-1 at 11:52 a.m.

Town of Batavia fire brought its ladder truck to facilitate "a high point of entry"; Elba's crew brought in special grain bin rescue equipment and a (sweep) auger. The grain bin rescue tools were bought over the last couple of years by area farms for situations just like today's. (Pavilion is the other Genesee County fire company that has the same capability.)

Also responding were: Genesee County Sheriff's deputies; NYS Police; county Office of Emergency Management coordinators; and Mercy EMS; Alabama stood by for Oakfield fire and Barre stood by for Elba.

A bulky four-panel "rescue tube" was assembled and placed around the person trapped. The corn inside it is removed, making an air space so the victim can be raised up and out.

It's time-consuming and the equipment is cumbersome, said Elba Fire Chief Michael Heale, but you try to work as quickly as possible. Dangers include hypothermia if it's cold outside, loss of blood circulation to limbs and paralysis, and death by suffocation.

"If you see us cutting into metal and removing grain below, that's not a good sign," said Tim Yaeger, county Emergency Management coordinator. "It means we need to recover a body. There are a number fatalities nationwide from this every year."

The farm employee in this case, after being extricated from the dry corn, was able to climb down a ladder on his own power, still with his cowboy hat on, and walk to a waiting ambulance for evaluation.

Scheiber said. "I'm very, very happy. ... These guys did an awesome, awesome job."

They also heaped praised on neighboring communities, even outside the county, and their willingness to pitch in.

"In this day and age, especially daytime, they're always there for us," Heale said. "Like they say, 'There's no i in team.' We do a very good job around here."

Above, volunteer firemen Michael Pfendler and Ryan Hart in Elba's trailer containing the grain bin rescue panels and equipment.

Photo by Howard Owens, who also contributed to the story.

November 23, 2020 - 4:38pm
posted by Press Release in covid-19, news, coronavirus, notify.

Press release:

New Positives – As of 2 p.m. covering from Friday afternoon through Monday:

  • Genesee County received 77 new positive cases of COVID-19.
    • The new positive cases reside in Batavia, Darien, Elba, Le Roy, Oakfield, Pavilion and Pembroke. 
    • The individuals are in their 0-19s, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. 
    • Two of the individuals were on mandatory quarantine prior to testing positive.
    • Thirty-seven of the previous positive individuals have recovered and have been removed from the isolation list.
    • Fifteen of the current positive individuals are hospitalized.
  • Orleans County received 29 new positive case of COVID-19.
  • The new positive cases reside in Albion, Barre, Clarendon, Gaines, Murray, Ridgeway, Shelby and Yates.
  • The individuals are in their 0-19s, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s.
  • Nine individuals were on mandatory quarantine prior to testing positive.
  • Thirty-six of the previous positive individuals have recovered and have been removed from the isolation list.
  • Two of the current positive individuals are hospitalized.
  • Four of the 29 new totals being reported today were not included in the mandatory isolation count as their positive test results were received after their isolation period was completed. We encourage anyone who has tested to self-isolate and limit contact with others as they wait on their test results, especially if they are having symptoms.
  • One of the new positives is an inmate at Albion Correctional Facility.
November 23, 2020 - 1:19pm

Having a role in the successful completion of a municipal project has provided a sense of satisfaction to City of Batavia Public Works Director Matt Worth, but it pales in comparison to his appreciation of and attachment to the people he worked with over the past 34 years.

“The people I have worked with I just can’t say enough about. I’m getting all choked up thinking about it, really,” Worth said during a telephone interview with The Batavian as he winds down a distinguished career with the city.

Worth’s official retirement date is Jan. 15, but his last day on the job – due to time earned – is Dec. 11.

His final City Council meeting is tonight’s Conference session at the City Centre Council Board Room, where he will receive a proclamation from lawmakers, honoring him for his dedicated service.

The 56-year-old lifelong resident of the Pembroke area said he has a special place in his heart for the people who believed in him and labored by his side.

“A lot of people gave me an opportunity or a chance, and I can’t thank them enough. I can name names, but I don’t want to leave anyone out,” he said.

Still, he first mentioned (the late) Dennis Larson, the former Public Works director who hired him back in March 1987 – “Dennis is someone I always thought the world of,” Worth said – and he thanked John Schaefer (former Water & Wastewater superintendent) and Len Walker (former Public Works director) for their expertise.

City Workers a Close-Knit Group

When it comes to his coworkers, Worth said they were like family.

“Those guys were special. When there was a water main break in the middle of the night and you’re out there in the freezing cold, you counted on each other to be there for each other,” he said. “Jim Ficarella and Bill Davis (retired and current Water & Wastewater superintendents, respectively), and the crews. There’s a sense of camaraderie and friendship and professionalism that I will always treasure.”

Worth began his career with the city – following a short stint with the Genesee County Highway Department – as an engineering technician and was promoted to deputy superintendent of water/wastewater in 1999. He took over as superintendent of that department three years later.

In July 2015, he was appointed Public Works director. The promotion put him in charge of the Bureau of Maintenance (Streets & Sidewalks), Bureau of Water and Wastewater (Water Plant and Sewer Plant), Bureau of Inspections (Code Enforcement) and Bureau of Engineering, with responsibility for approximately 50 employees.

During his tenure, he has been involved in numerous public works projects, including street reconstruction, water and sewer plant upgrades, and capital infrastructure planning.

“The projects that we’ve done over the years are the things that I’ve really craved,” he offered. “A project gets done and there’s a tangible change that happened – something that you can really see … the road got plowed, the road got paved, a new water line got put in, whatever that may be.”

Keeping a Low Profile is Just Fine

He said he understands how important public works are to residents and doesn’t mind flying under the radar.

“If we’re doing it right, the people don’t notice you’re doing it. There’s a certain satisfaction in that,” he said.

“When the kids come through on tours of things, we tell them that Public Works is the department that you touch and feel every day. You’re using the streets, you’re walking on the sidewalks, you’re using the water, you’re flushing the toilet. That interaction is very real with the services that Public Works provides compared to fire and police and other big departments that really you don’t have to interact with them, even though they’re a higher profile profession.”

In January 2018, Worth took over as interim city manager after the departure of Jason Molino and served in that role for about 10 months.

“That year of me being upstairs as the interim city manager, I really missed DPW,” he said. “The city manager position is more of a higher-level planning, with stuff more in the future and not readily tangible, so that’s why I was quite ready to get back to Public Works.”

He did such a fine job as interim city manager that he was selected by the Genesee Valley Branch of the American Public Works Association as the 2018 recipient of the Public Works Leader of the Year in the Administrative Management Category.

Worth said he had plenty of support during that time.

“I was very fortunate that I had really good people (department heads) when I was upstairs here – Ray Tourt (Department of Maintenance), Jim Ficarella, the two superintendents – they really ran the Public Works department for those 10 months, and did a really good job as there were projects still going on,” he said. “A lot of people pulled together, understanding that there was a vacuum and we all needed to help each other to get through it.”

Looking Back at Specific Projects

When asked about specific projects that stand out, Worth mentioned the new sewer plant construction, a $45 million venture that took place during his first year with the city.

“Being a young kid who doesn’t know a darn thing and walking into a huge project like that, I got exposed to so many different aspects of construction and large-scale projects,” he said. “What an opportunity to observe that and learn from that. That was on the very front end, but that sticks in my mind.”

He also said mentioned the Main Street reconstruction in 2003 and 2004 – “the road was in such bad shape,” he noted – and talked about some of the benefits of the smaller, residential street projects.

“You got to meet the people who lived there and you built relationships with them,” he said. “I remember some older people who lived on the street – by the end of the summer they were giving me canned tomatoes and offered to pray for you at night. That was a fun aspect of working in a municipality. You get to meet the people.”

As far as unfinished business, Worth remembers his first day on the job, performing survey work on Oak Street to prepare for a new street, Cecere Drive.

“It was a small subdivision with a few houses to be built there, but there ended up being a conflict over some property deeds or something, and that project never happened. That one never made it to the finish line.”

Hope Ahead for the City Centre Mall?

Worth acknowledged some “missed opportunities” in regard to building a new police station, but is pleased to see that it finally is on track.

“We always were going to do something, but something would come up and it got put off. The police need a new headquarters. The old City Hall (former Brisbane Mansion) is about 200 years old and trying to function as a police station.”

He said he is optimistic that a solution to the City Centre Mall dilemma is near. He called the initial concept of the Genesee Country Mall a mistake, “having all of these individual ownerships with this common hallway in the middle of it.”

“I was involved in that on several different levels over the years. I think frustration would be the word here, but I think moving forward there are opportunities that will be very positive – considering the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) redevelopment work.”

When it was mentioned that at least the roof has been repaired, Worth said the last section is scheduled to be done in the coming year … “and then all the buckets go away, right?”

Council President: He’s Going to be Missed

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said Worth deserves to enjoy his retirement, admitting “we’re going to miss him tremendously.”

“He’s done a lot of work; he’s involved in a lot of the projects. He stepped up even as assistant city manager for a time and was able to lead the ship for a couple months while we got things squared away so, he’s going to be missed for sure,” he said.

Jankowski said he is sure Worth has imparted his knowledge to put the city in position to promote his replacement from within.

“Hopefully, we’ve done our job and there are people in place to take over, but I know that Matt is that kind of guy -- a teacher and a mentor to a lot of the employees that he works with. So, I’m sure there will be somebody qualified to take the reins,” he said.

Tourt, a city employee for nearly 22 years, started out in the Engineering Bureau, working with Worth.

“They’re really going to miss him and they don’t realize how much yet. He’s been a real good boss and he’s been a great mentor and he’s been a good friend. He has really looked out for the operations of the city and always put the city first,” he said.

Worth said he intends to find another job, but is not sure of the line of work.

“I’m hoping to find somebody that has a need for an old, washed-up Public Works director, I guess,” he said, downplaying his experience. “I’m leaning toward something local. I really do enjoy living here and have lived here all my life.”

He also said that he and his wife, Joan, will have more time with the family – their grown children, Adam and Kathryn, and two grandchildren, ages 1 and 3 – and continue to enjoy their walks at the Iroquois Wildlife Refuge.

“It’s a chance to give the dog some exercise,” he said.

November 21, 2020 - 12:21pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county, Ways & Means Committee.

Genesee County governmental leaders have trimmed the fat from the county’s self-funded employee health benefits plan that has been hit with consecutive years of double-digit premium increases, County Manager Matt Landers said this week.

“I will say that the plan is run lean, believe it or not,” Landers said following a vote of the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee to approve monthly rates for 2021, effective Jan. 1. “There is no healthy reserve fund balance in that fund. We are just covering our costs.”

And the costs to the county are considerable as participants pay an average of 15 percent of the total premium, with the county picking up the other 85 percent.

Genesee County has budgeted $13,994,483 for 2021 for actual claims plus administrative and ancillary costs. Approximately 680 employees of the county and Genesee Community College are enrolled in the plan, with total participation including additional family members at approximately 1,660.

Landers said that medical and prescription drug premium rates are increasing 17.6 percent in 2021, and this is on the heels of a 10-percent increase for 2020.

“While it is painful, we are increasing the premiums as little as possible,” he said. “We’re trying to be mindful of the impact it has departments, on taxpayers and on individuals that are paying these increased premiums through cost sharing.”

He said the goal is to have everyone on the plan pay 15 percent of the total premium – which will be achieved through negotiations with the county’s four unions – and that each county department has a budget for the health care costs for its employees.

“Right now, the average county employee is pretty close to paying 15 percent,” he said.

For an illustration of the cost, an employee signed up under “Family (3 or more)” in the Health and Wellness Plan will pay around $339 per month for that coverage in 2021.

With the total monthly premium set at $2,261, the county is responsible for $1,922 per month.

Landers explained that being self-insured means that all medical and prescription drug bills come directly to the county.

“We’re self-insured, so when a person goes in for a surgery or somebody has a premature baby delivered and stays in the hospital two months, we’re not sending (bills) to Blue Cross & Blue Shield, we are our own self-insured company,” he said. “So, basically the doctor or the hospital … sends a bill to Genesee County for $175,000 and we’re the ones paying that.”

Other monthly rates under the Health and Wellness Plan include Single, $696; 2 Members, $1,391; Retired, single, $696; and Retired, family 3 or more, $2,261. The county also offers dental and vision benefits for both Single and Family.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said management and health plan consultants did their best to keep costs as low as possible.

“We understand that this increase in premiums is necessary, but if you go on to the market, you will see that it is right in line. So, I’m just pleased with this, considering where we are today,” she said.

November 20, 2020 - 5:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, news, batavia, notify.

While it's too early to say that a series of brush fires next to buildings at 29 Liberty St. in the City of Batavia were deliberately set, said Chief Stefano Napolitano, the fires do deserve closer scrutiny.

City fire and Batavia PD are working together on an investigation.

The property is a long narrow band with a trailer on it -- like a long trailer used at construction sites -- and the fires were several yards apart on the property.

"With fires at multiple locations, it warrants an extremely closer look," Napolitano said.

The investigation will also try to determine if the Liberty Street fires are linked to a dumpster fire at School and Cedar streets earlier today.

Out at the scene this evening, Napolitano was overheard talking with a police officer about the unusual number of brush fires in the area for November. We asked him about it later.

There were fires today in Alabama, Oakfield, Pavilion and Darien.

"I can't speak for other chiefs but in my 35 years (in the fire service), I don't remember a November 20th with this kind of temperature and dry conditions," Napolitano said. "Maybe when I was younger, I didn't notice it, but now I can feel it in my bones."

He said its really not a good time for one last bonfire or to burn things.

He praised the response of his team. The firefighters protected nearby buildings from the fire and got it out quickly.

Previously: Brush fire reported on Liberty Street in the city

Video by Rick Hale.

November 20, 2020 - 5:04pm
Video Sponsor

The need for COVID-19 testing sites in rural counties was the focus of a press conference by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer Thursday morning at Medina Memorial Hospital.

Schumer said Congress has approved $9 billion in funding for states and rural counties, such as Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming, but the Federal government won’t release it.

Both Schumer and hospital CEO Mark Shurtz are concerned about the amount of testing that will need to be done with the coronavirus cases exploding across the region. Schumer said Orleans seven-day average has quadrupled since Nov. 1, and yet the county has zero free COVID-19 testing sites.

Genesee and Orleans County Health Department Director Paul Pettit said there are currently no free testing sites in the three-county area, forcing residents to drive to Monroe Community College in Rochester, Niagara County Community College in Sanborn or Downtown Buffalo for a free test.

Testing is being done at Oak Orchard Health in Albion, and drive-thru testing at Orleans Community Health’s Urgent Care in Albion, but it isn’t free. 

County officials estimate thousands more tests are desperately needed immediately and with cases on the rise, there will be increased need for testing of nursing home residents, health care workers and school children, Pettit said. 

County officials project they will need at least seven to eight rapid test machines and thousands of test kits at minimum, compared to the two machines and 700 rapid test kits they have now. 

Schumer demanded the Department of Health and Human Services release the testing dollars he helped to originally secure to conduct sufficient rapid testing and tracing programs to keep residents safe from the virus. Schumer also announced his intention to fight for more of those funds for communities across Upstate New York, as the possibility of a second wave emerges and as a Covid relief deal continues to be negotiated. 

Marc Shurtz, CEO/CFO of Orleans Community Health, said every tool and resource available is needed to best protect the community and health professionals, and that certainly includes more robust testing. 

“Especially now as Covid infection and transmission rates are spiking again in Western New York, we need to increase our testing capacity – including rapid testing – to stop the spread and avoid other protective measures, like lockdowns,” Shurtz said. "If we can head off community spread with more testing, we can curb new hospitalizations, which are already up 550 percent in the Finger Lakes Region.”

November 20, 2020 - 4:10pm
posted by Press Release in news, notify, covid-19, coronavirus.

Press release:

As of 2 p.m.:

  • Genesee County received 17 new positive cases of COVID-19.
    • The new positive cases reside in Alabama, Batavia, Darien, Elba and Le Roy. 
    • One of the new positive individuals is a resident at The Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing at Batavia.
    • The individuals are in their 0-19s, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s.
    • One of the individuals was on mandatory quarantine prior to testing positive.
    • Nineteen of the previous positive individuals have recovered and have been removed from the isolation list.
    • Eight of the current positive individuals are hospitalized.
  • Orleans County received one new positive case of COVID-19.
  • The new positive case resides in Barre.
  • The individual is in their 0-19s.
  • The individual was not on mandatory quarantine prior to testing positive.
  • Twenty-nine of the previous positive individuals have recovered and have been removed from the isolation list.

Three of the current positive individuals are hospitalized.

November 20, 2020 - 3:39pm
posted by Press Release in news, notify, covid-19, health alert, coronavirus.

Health Alert

From the Genesee County Health Department:

The Genesee County Health Department has received seven positive COVID-19 tests from individuals who attended funeral service arrangements on the following dates and locations:

  • Nov. 11th -- Gilmartin Funeral Home (333 W. Main St., Batavia) between the hours of 3 to 7:30 p.m.
  • Nov. 12th -- Resurrection Roman Catholic Church (303 E. Main St., Batavia) between the hours of 9 to 10:30 a.m.
  • Nov. 12th -- Saint Joseph’s Mausoleum (Ellicott Street, Batavia) between the hour of 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
  • Nov. 12th -- Polish Falcons of America (123 S. Swan St., Batavia) between the hours of 12 to 6 p.m.

Contact tracing is in progress; however unidentified individuals may have unknowingly been in contact with the positive cases.

We advise all individuals who were at the locations listed to monitor their symptoms for 14 days.

If symptoms of COVID-19 develop, contact your primary care provider to seek testing immediately and self-isolate until you receive your test results.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include but are not limited to: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea.

For more information please visit: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/home

November 20, 2020 - 3:05pm

U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved vaccines to fight COVID-19 can’t come fast enough for Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee and Orleans counties, who is worried that the two local counties are about to move into deeper levels of New York State-mandated restrictions.

“I believe we’re probably on the verge of potentially going Yellow,” Pettit said today during a Zoom videoconference for business owners and managers set up by the county Chamber of Commerce.

About 50 people logged in to the session, which lasted 45 minutes.

Pettit said the data and metrics of the state’s micro-cluster program featuring color-coded zones point to Genesee and Orleans at least going into the Yellow zone, and possibly to Orange.

“We’re not quite there yet that we know of,” he said. “The data and the metrics of how this is made up – I’m not saying it is secretive – but really the state is the one that is tracking all of this. It is driven by zip code and census tract and it’s based on the positivity rate within those census tracts and those zip codes.”

He said there are some areas in the City and Town of Batavia that are “probably getting close, potentially triggering that level, so we are monitoring that closely.”

Pettit went over the micro-cluster scheme, noting that the Finger Lakes Region control room, which the two counties are part of, is supposed to give the health department advance warning if the region will be placed into the Yellow category.

“We have not gotten that call yet, so I’m hopeful that means that we’re not going to be going Yellow next week. We’re still waiting to hear,” he said.

In Genesee County, designated a Tier 3 county by the state, it will be placed into the Yellow Zone if the geographic area has seven-day rolling average positivity above 3.5 percent for 10 days and the geographic area has 15 or more new daily cases per 100,000 residents on seven-day average.

It will go to Orange if it has a seven-day rolling average positivity above 4.5 percent for 10 days and has 15 or more new daily cases per 100,000 residents on seven-day average.

And it will move into Red if it has a seven-day rolling average positivity above 5.5 percent for 10 days and has 15 or more new daily cases per 100,000 residents on seven-day average.

The criteria are similar for Orleans County, a Tier 4 county.

“I think we’re getting close to this. Our raw numbers definitely put us above three-and-a-half in Genesee (3.9 percent) and for Orleans, it’s 4 percent for Yellow and we’re definitely above that,” Pettit said. “From the numbers, we may even be in jeopardy of going into the Orange level.”

Increased spread of the coronavirus will result in more restrictions to businesses, mass gatherings, places of worship, dining establishments and schools, Pettit said, and could mean reverting to lockdown measures implemented at the outset of the pandemic in the spring.

But, there is hope, Pettit said, in the news that a vaccine is around the corner.

“That’s a big positive that we’re finally moving toward. We’re getting to the point now (where) two manufacturers (Pfizer and Moderna) that have basically completed their Phase 3 trials and have published their findings … both of those seem very promising,” he said.

“They’re both reporting over 95-percent efficacy, so that’s a great number that actually rivals some of our long-term, other standard immunizations for measles, mumps, rubella. Those are around 97- to 98-percent effective.”

Pettit said that once the companies receive emergency use authorization from the FDA they will be “pumping out … 20 million doses by the end of the year from each one, and they’re going to keep ramping them up.”

He also indicated that other manufacturers are developing vaccines, and more will be available after the first of the year.

“That’s really what we have been waiting for … so we can start getting our folks protected and moving beyond these restrictions,” he said.

Pettit said the local health department has a mass vaccination plan in place that mirrors the state’s in that the first phase will target people at the highest risk – nursing homes, vulnerable populations, health care workers – and that later phases will provide immunization to those with underlying conditions and the general public.

He spoke of “closed pods” – giving the vaccine in doses of 500 to 600, for example, at nursing homes, senior facilities and health care systems.

“Once that starts opening up, obviously, we will be utilizing our community partners – pharmacies, health care providers, us (health department) conducting public clinics – trying to get this vaccine out as quickly as we can to the public,” he said.

Pettit said businesses could be included in this process and asked owners of larger companies to let him know if they are interested in holding a “closed pod.”

The public health director’s comments on related areas:

Shout-out to the Business Community

“We know that it has been a long nine months and it doesn’t seem to be getting much better. We’re entering a new phase here, so to speak, and things seem to be getting a little more active, and we have our new micro-cluster strategy that the governor has put out there,” he said.

“Overall, you guys have done a great job. While we looked at the type of case contacting in businesses over the last five, seven, eight, nine months, it really does show that you guys have taken this seriously. You guys have put together very solid and appropriate COVID plans. I know that it has not been easy. A lot of you have struggled through this – financially and trying to stay open and delivering the services in a safe and effective way.”

He said his department is advocating on their behalf.

“We’re well aware that the governor is calling the shots on these different strategies and how he’s putting restrictions in place, but we do advocate – we try to push back locally through our state association on things that don’t make sense. Why are we doing this or why do we have to have these types of restrictions?”

Providing Current COVID Numbers

“Obviously, our numbers have been increasing significantly, locally, and we continue to share those on a daily basis,” he said. “In Genesee County, we’re averaging close to 20 cases per day.”

Pettit said there were 281 positive cases in the county on Sept. 1; 311 on Oct. 1; 375 on Nov. 1; and 635 as of yesterday.

“From October 1st to now we’ve doubled our positive cases, and from November 1st – less than three weeks -- we have over 250 cases in Genesee County alone,” he said. “Orleans’ data tracks very similarly – a little less, but proportionately about the same.”

In Genesee County, almost 700 people are in mandatory quarantine with over 130 active cases – the highest numbers since the pandemic took hold.

“With that, our cases and our case investigations are identifying 10, 15, 20, 25 exposures per positive case, which is really driving a lot of these quarantine numbers,” he reported.

Driven by Two Types of Situations

-- Social gatherings, such as parties, birthday parties, gatherings after Halloween, based on actual data.

“Social distancing, masking is not being adhered to on the private side of life,” Pettit said. “You guys on the business side have to follow your safety plans and are required to make sure people wear masks when they come into the store, employees are masked and social distanced, but that’s not the case, obviously, when some folks go home or are having gatherings.”

-- Workplace exposures, primarily driven by employees working symptomatic.

“It’s difficult this time of year when we’re in our traditional flu season and other types of colds and viruses are circulating – everybody has sniffles and a little scratchy throat, but unfortunately, these are all COVID symptoms,” he said. “What we’ve been seeing over the past month and a half is related to workers coming to work and having mild symptoms, but they work anyways, and depending on the practice in the work environment around masking and distancing, it has led toward fairly significant transition and spread between coworkers. They take it home to their families, share it with their loved ones and there goes the cycle.”

Pettit mentioned the latest restrictions mandating bars, restaurants, gyms and bowling centers to close at 10 p.m. and the “controversial” decision to limit private gatherings to 10 or less.

“Obviously, that’s (the 10 person limit) is impossible to enforce and there is no local push for that. It’s more educational on our side … encouraging folks to think about their exposure and risk,” he said.

Data from the Finger Lakes Region

Pettit reported that in the Finger Lakes Region, which includes Monroe County, the seven-day rolling average is 343 positive cases. In Genesee County, the seven-day rolling average is hovering around 5 percent and in Orleans County, it is more than 6 percent.

The hospitalization rate has jumped from .6 per 100,000 in October to 2.35 per 100,000 now, a cause for concern as flu season approaches, he said, adding that more and more testing is being done each week.

The average age of a person testing positive in the region is 39, with 1 percent of the population reporting COVID-like symptoms on a daily basis. In schools, there have been 604 positive cases involving students and 279 involving teachers.

Options for Those to Get Tested

Pettit talked about traveling out of state and the testing that needs to be done upon return, but said many are hampered due to a shortage of testing sites and the likelihood that these optional test won’t be covered by insurance.

“Testing continues to be limited in Genesee and Orleans counties,” he said. “Sen. (Charles) Schumer was out yesterday (in Medina) talking about rural testing and trying to increase capacity for all rural counties. Bottom line, it still is symptomatic testing. We are working on partnering with UMMC and Oak Orchard Health to try to increase rapid testing in our communities, but we don’t have a lot of access to the test kits.”

He said free testing sites run by the state are at Monroe Community College, Niagara County Community College and at the Buffalo Sabres’ parking lot in Downtown Buffalo. They are open seven days a week and appointments are required.

“I encourage folks to utilize that as needed especially for travel-related or screening -- for maybe going to a nursing home to visit a loved one or (to go to) school, whatever the need may be,” he said.

For more information, go to https://forward.ny.gov/

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