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Monroe County officials note recent spike in COVID-19 cases; urge vaccinations

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What a difference a year makes.

Monroe County officials said on Thursday that last year at this time, there were 29 new cases of COVID-19 in the county.

As of Thursday, there were 197 new cases, as the delta variant continues to spread.

County Executive Adam Bello and Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza, along with officials from UR Medicine and Rochester Regional Health, provided an update on the pandemic at a virtual news conference on Thursday.

Bello said school is just days away, and local districts that are unveiling their reopening plans are following the county’s advice to mask indoors.

Bello and the health officials said that vaccinations are the long-term key to defeating the virus; there are vaccine clinic sites are listed on the county’s website. There are also testing sites throughout the county, and testing will continue to be offered as long as the numbers are headed upwards at the current pace.

Mendoza said he knows everyone is tired of the coronavirus; but county residents need to double down on the practices needed to limit the spread of the virus, including not spreading false information.

“COVID is not yet done with us. To get past COVID we need to stand together to stand up to misinformation as a community because ultimately we rise and fall as a community. We won't do it on the backs of conspiracy theories and medical advice from Facebook and Twitter," Mendoza said.

Dr. Michael Apostolakos, chief medical officer at UR Medicine, and Dr. Robert Mayo, chief medical officer at Rochester Regional Health, both pointed to a recent increase in hospitalizations involving COVID-19 patients, noting that many of them are unvaccinated. Apostolakos is concerned that if hospitalizations continue to rise, it could again curtail elective surgeries as happened during the peak of the pandemic last year.

“Previously during the surge, we had to limit elective surgeries and what was elective at the time, a month or two later may no longer be elective. So I’m concerned about patients being harmed by overcrowding due to COVID illness,” Apostolakos said.

Bello also said at this point, there are no plans for any additional mandates coming down from the county on masking. He said that the steps taken to require them for county employees, and other businesses and organizations strongly encouraging them in certain indoor settings seem to be working at this time.