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County officials say omicron is ‘behind us,’ but we must remain vigilant as pandemic continues

Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza, left, and Monroe County Executive Adam Bello.
Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza, left, and Monroe County Executive Adam Bello.

Monroe County COVID-19 case numbers are continuing to move in the right direction, according to county officials.

The county health department reported 284 new cases on Thursday, with a seven-day average of 305 cases per day. Roughly a month ago, 2,400 new cases were reported, with a seven-day case average of about 2,500 per day.

Public health commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said the data and metrics show that the omicron variant is no longer a major threat.

“Our numbers are improving. The omicron surge is by every measure now behind us,” he said.

Mendoza added that hospitals remain full, but relief is in sight.

Across the region, 486 people are currently hospitalized with the disease, with 72 in intensive care units.

“Let's resist the temptation to throw caution to the wind and pretend that COVID is over, because COVID is not over,” Mendoza said.

He said respect, civility and a renewed commitment to science will help us safely get through the next phase of the pandemic.

With the improved case numbers, Gov. Kathy Hochul lifted the state’s mask mandate effective Thursday in most indoor spaces aside from health care facilities, airports and schools.

The mandate in schools will be reviewed in early March once children return from February break.

County Executive Adam Bello is calling this “the common-sense phase” of controlling the pandemic.

“This virus is going to be a part of our lives moving forward, and it's up to each individual to decide what precautions are right for them,” he said.

The county will continue to promote vaccination and testing efforts, and supply KN95 masks for those who want them.

Racquel Stephen is WXXI's health, equity and community reporter and producer. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Rochester and a master's degree in broadcasting and digital journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.