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In Rochester, Cuomo shares COVID-19 worries; protesters express frustration over restrictions

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Governor Andrew Cuomo, speaking at Baber A.M.E. Church in Rochester on Wednesday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in Rochester on Wednesday to give his COVID-19 briefing from the Baber A.M.E Church on Meigs Street -- and give away some turkeys afterward.

His visit was met by protesters who are frustrated with the state’s microcluster restrictions.

During his remarks, Cuomo again expressed concerns about the rising number of coronavirus cases statewide and across the country, and he said the state does expect to see an increase in infection rates after Thanksgiving, especially with so many people traveling or gathering in large groups.

He said the rate of increase will depend on how people act.

Cuomo said global experts warn of a surge in cases starting this fall, and they're advising states to develop a winter plan in response.

"Prioritize highest infection rates with the highest hospitalization rates. What is the greatest fear during COVID? Greatest fear is you overwhelm the hospital system,” Cuomo said.

The plan also includes strategies to keep schools open and a vaccine operation for the state.

The governor’s appearance was on the same day that orange zone restrictions went into effect for most of Rochester and parts of Brighton, Irondequoit and Gates.

Credit April Franklin / WXXI News
Protesters gathered outside Baber A.M.E. Church in Rochester on Wednesday while Gov. Cuomo was holding a news conference inside.

Protester Tracy Gagliano lives in Rochester, just outside an orange zone. She said the governor's restrictions are arbitrary and unconstitutional.

“I’m not sure why that street is orange and this street is yellow,” Gagliano said. I can walk over to orange and be in yellow in two seconds. I’m not sure in other countries that they lock down healthy people. Typically, they lock down sick people.”

Leandra Sweet came with her husband and children. They live inside an orange zone in Fairport.

“We want to tell Cuomo that it is safe to open up schools, to open up the area. The death count is way down,” Sweet said.

During his briefing, Cuomo singled out Monroe County, which has seen one of the highest increases in the number of infections in the entire state the last three weeks.

Cuomo told reporters there were 74 hospitalizations on Nov. 4, and 268 as of Tuesday, a 274% increase. He said at that rate, the hospital system would be overwhelmed in a matter of weeks.

After the briefing, Dr. Michael Mendoza, the county’s public health commissioner, issued this statement:

“The Monroe County Department of Public Health has said for weeks that the majority of community spread of COVID-19 has come from small gatherings of people not wearing masks, physically distancing or following other proper guidelines. MCDPH regularly reports instances of possible transmission in bars and restaurants, but has not had to issue such reports for many other businesses to date. We continue to encourage our residents to follow the recommended guidelines, including wearing a face covering in public , limiting interactions with those outside your household, maintaining six feet physical distancing and regular hand hygiene.”

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.
April Franklin is an occasional local host of WXXI's Weekend Edition.