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COVID-19 cases slow in Monroe County, but minorities continue to die at higher rates

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Monroe County Department of Public Health reported eight new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday -- a stark contrast to the middle of May, when the county reported close to 100 new cases on some days.

The decrease in the number of new cases detected comes even as testing has expanded to cover more people, including family members of people with confirmed cases, who were often presumed positive but unable to be tested for the virus earlier in the outbreak.

Typically, more testing means more cases, but that has not been the case in Monroe County -- a finding that led the health department to approve the reopening of some pools and playgrounds last week.

Local epidemiologists said recent numbers look like a positive trend, but they’re still concerned about the potential for spikes after protests and reopenings.

Also alarming to people who watch the numbers is the continued elevated death rate among racial and ethnic minorities in the county.

Data from the Center for Community Health and Prevention at the University of Rochester Medical Center shows African American residents of the county dying of COVID-19 at nearly triple the rate of white residents. In every minority group measured, the death rate was higher than in the white population, the center found.

County public health commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza has said that structural racism results in people of color being particularly vulnerable to the disease.

Rochester nonprofit Common Ground Health set up screening sites in neighborhoods with a high proportion of racial and ethnic minorities in an effort to catch infections sooner and get people to medical care more quickly.

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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