One year after Monroe County’s first COVID-19 case, local leaders take stock
A year after Monroe County’s first case of COVID-19, Rochester and county officials joined health care leaders Thursday to pay tribute to both the lives lost to the disease, and the courage of essential workers and residents.
County Executive Adam Bello said in the past year, the community rose to the pandemic's many challenges, from distilleries like Black Button Distillery pivoting to make hand sanitizer to volunteers who transformed the convention center to a vaccination clinic.
Community leaders also had to make unimaginable decisions, he said.
“I remember one day when I was told the morgues were filling up, which is something a community leader never wants to hear, and they said, ‘How do you want to fix that?’ ” Bello said. “No one’s ever asked me that question in my life. I never had training on how to do that in my life. But I did know people who did know how to do it.”
Since last March, more than 52,000 people in the county have contracted the coronavirus and nearly 1,200 people have died of COVID-19.
The first vaccine doses arrived in the county in December, right when the community was enduring the largest surge of COVID-19 cases, which peaked on New Year's Eve at over 830 new daily cases.
To date, more than 80,000 Monroe County residents have been fully vaccinated, and over 170,000 have received at least one dose, Bello said.
While the pandemic is far from over, county public health commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said he’s optimistic for the future.
“Now is not the time to take off our masks or let down our guard, but it is time to reflect on what we have been through. We must hold on to what we have gained and learn from it,” he said. “Indeed, we should all look around at how lucky we are to be alive today.”
Includes reporting by Racquel Stephen.