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Bello declares state of emergency; 2nd case of coronavirus in Monroe County as Greece Schools close

Monroe County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza and other local officials brief reporters on Saturday
Brett Dahlberg
Monroe County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza and other local officials brief reporters on Saturday

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello declared a state of emergency on Saturday as details were released about the second confirmed case of COVID-19 in the county.

Bello said the declaration gives his administration more flexibility in dealing with the virus.

“This is uncharted territory,” Bello said. “As a community, we have never faced something like this in our lifetimes.”

Officials announced that the case is a woman in her 60s who works at Arcadia Middle School and is currently at Unity Hospital in stable condition.

County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said investigators have not been able to find a travel-related risk factor to explain her infection. “Therefore, I believe this is our first example of local transmission here in Monroe County,” Mendoza said.

The woman started showing symptoms on March 4, officials said. On March 5 and 6, when her symptoms were still mild, she went to work at the middle school. As a result, Greece Central School District Superintendent Kathy Graupman said, all Greece schools will be closed “until further notice.”

Students and faculty at the school should “follow their symptoms,” Mendoza said, and be in touch with either their primary care doctor or the county health department if they have any concerns.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

Greece is the largest suburban school district in the county, with more than 10,000 students. At the time of the news conference on Saturday, other suburban schools and the Rochester City School District remained open, but county officials said discussions about whether to close them were underway.

Mendoza said health workers had begun contact tracing to determine who might have been exposed to the school worker during the time that she was contagious.

He said they have not yet found any of those contacts who are showing symptoms.

Officials are also still searching for people who might have had close contact with the man carrying Monroe County’s first COVID-19 case.

Mendoza said the health department’s initial investigation of the second case indicates the woman could have contracted the coronavirus at St. Josephat's Ukrainian Catholic Church. He said a Sunday service there March 1 was the last known large gathering she attended before she began feeling symptoms three days later.

Mendoza said that timeline is consistent with the disease’s typical progression.

The county stopped short of offering any specific guidance for the closing of houses of worship or other public and private gathering sites like gyms or libraries.

“It has been time” to consider closing those facilities, Mendoza said, but the decision to shut down could come with unintended consequences.

If libraries close, and their users simply move to rec centers, Mendoza said, “now we’ve simply relocated them to a different setting” but done nothing to stem the transmission of disease.

Hospital leaders said Saturday that, for the time being, they have the supplies they need to handle an increase in COVID-19 cases locally, but they also said people who suspect they have the disease should call their doctor or the public health department first, rather than show up at a clinic.

Turnaround time for testing has decreased substantially over the last weeks, from days to, in some cases now, hours, with the opening of a testing facility at the Erie County public health lab.

Still, New York state reported its first death from the virus Saturday, and Mendoza said the information the Monroe County health department has from its second confirmed case does indicate an increased risk of a wider outbreak in the local community.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.
Brett was the health reporter and a producer at WXXI News. He has a master’s degree from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.
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