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Area officials coordinate response to the potential of coronavirus

From left to right: Tim Kohlmeier of the county's Office of Emergency Management; County Executive Adam Bello; Congressman Joe Morelle and county Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza
Randy Gorbman
From left to right: Tim Kohlmeier of the county's Office of Emergency Management; County Executive Adam Bello; Congressman Joe Morelle and county Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza

Holding a briefing at the public safety training facility, Congressman Joe Morelle, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and the county’s health commissioner, Dr. Michael Mendoza, wanted to get across that they are closely monitoring the situation with the coronavirus and the need to make preparations. But they also note we’ve had no local cases so far.

On Sunday night, New York state officials confirmedthe first person in the state to test positively for the coronavirus. A statement Sunday from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office says a woman in her late 30s contracted the virus while traveling in Iran. A state official says she is currently self-quarantined in her Manhattan home. The statement says she is not in serious condition.

In terms of whether local hospitals could handle a big influx of patients if we had a substantial outbreak of coronavirus in this community, Mendoza said that would certainly present a challenge.

“We would need to do a lot more planning if we were to have to hospitalize a thousand people tomorrow, that would be a major undertaking. But we will have some lead time, we think. So, we’ve been in constant communication with the hospitals; they have plans in place and they will activate them as necessary,” Mendoza said.

Bello says he’s been in touch with Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce officials about the potential impact on local businesses. The county executive says if Monroe County did see a big impact from coronavirus, that could affect not only the business community but county finances. 

Morelle said that members of Congress were briefed last week by various federal health officials, and he says Congress stands ready to act to approve more funds for states and localities to deal with any outbreak of coronavirus.

“Those dollars can then be moved appropriately  and that’s why there’s some flexibility; there’s obviously not a great need for dollars here locally yet, we just want to be prepared and to make sure we’re doing everything we can to coordinate and to make sure we can stop the spread, if in fact, we have confirmed cases here.” Morelle is hoping for an appropriation of several billion dollars to be used by states and localities as needed to deal with the impact of the virus.

Monroe County has set up a page on its website with information about coronavirus.

Mendoza says people should practice good hygiene, things like handwashing, to try and stop the spread of any virus, including the flu.

“All the things that we would do to prevent the spread of influenza, we ought to do to prevent the spread of influenza as well as practice good habits for if and when, coronavirus comes to this community. But I think the reason to do all of these good preparation methods is to contain the risk for flu, which we know is here,” Mendoza said.

The number of flu cases has been sharply higher so far compared to last year, and in fact, Mendoza said  new numbers coming out on Monday will show that 10 people in Monroe County have died of influenza-related illness so far this season. That's double the number reported in recent weeks. 

Here's video of the Sunday news conference from the Public Safety Training Facility on Scottsville Road:

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.