WXXI AM News

Racquel Stephen

Health Reporter

Racquel Stephen is WXXI's health reporter, joining the newsroom in 2021. 

Racquel’s multifaceted radio background includes reporting for WAER in Syracuse and as a host for WLGZ-HD2 in Rochester. 

Racquel holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Rochester and a master's degree in broadcasting and digital journalism from S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

Racquel’s interest in health reporting stems from navigating through the developmental disabilities of her toddler son, and witnessing inequities within the health care system.

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Max Schulte/WXXI News

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to loosen its mask guidelines for the fully vaccinated.

The agency announced Thursday that those who have completed their vaccination series can resume normal activities without wearing a mask or socially distancing while in public, except where federal, state, or local laws require it.

Dr. Michael Mendoza, Monroe County’s public health commissioner, said the CDC’s updates make good sense. He said they're a step in the right direction toward normalcy.

Monroe County and the YMCA of Greater Rochester have partnered up to provide additional COVID-19 vaccination clinics throughout the county.

County Executive Adam Bello made the announcement at this week’s COVID-19 briefing.

He said partnering with the YMCA is part of the county’s ongoing efforts to make the vaccine more accessible to the public.

“We're continuously working and really grateful for all our community partners for working with us to bring more and more pop-up vaccine locations into neighborhoods where people live,” Bello said.

Lance McCord/Flickr / wnyc.org

Monroe County and the Finger Lakes COVID-19 Vaccine Hub have partnered with community health agencies and health care systems to finalize plans to bring the vaccine to homebound residents.

Dr. Ali Loveys, the operational lead for the program, said after about a month of preparation, the partnership is now ready to serve that community. She said the hub has been committed to reaching that population, but it was a matter of getting adequate vaccine supply.

Racquel Stephen / WXXI News

Now that the Federal Drug Administration has approved emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents ages 12-15, local health officials say this age group should be able to get their shots as soon as Thursday.

Dr. Michael Mendoza, Monroe County's public health commissioner, said although this is great news for the community, he understands parents may have concerns. He advised parents to talk to their family health care provider.

“Raise your concerns. Ask your questions, and please do your own research from valuable valid sources,” Mendoza said.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Monroe County's latest COVID-19 data, released Monday, shows 134 new cases and no new deaths.

The county's seven-day rolling average of new cases is 196 per day, and the average positivity rate is 2.9%.

There are 218 people in the Finger Lakes region who are hospitalized with the disease; 51 of them are in the intensive care unit.

Just over 52% of Monroe County residents have received at least one vaccine dose, and a little over 44% are fully vaccinated. 

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Laura Tobia held up a photo of her two brothers, John and Billy, during a Zoom press conference Friday.

“I want to put a face with their names because they're real people,”  Tobia said.

Both of her brothers live in a group home, and are fully vaccinated.  Billy, however,  has a severe case of cerebral palsy and cognitive impairment, along with a very complex seizure disorder. 

Tobia said, due to the state’s delay on updating group home COVID-19 guidelines, Billy still isn't able to attend his day-hab program.

James Brown / WXXI News

The division between vaccinated and unvaccinated people for upcoming Red Wings’ games is drawing some mixed reactions on social media.

On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that anyone who is fully vaccinated can sit next to each other at outdoor venues, like ballparks, instead of being 6 feet apart, anyone not vaccinated will sit in a separate area, with 6 feet of social distancing required. 

All students at the Rochester Institute of Technology must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 before the start of the fall semester. That announcement came on Wednesday from RIT President David Munson.

RIT joins the University of Rochester and a number of other colleges and universities in requiring that undergraduate and graduate students be completely vaccinated by Aug. 1.

Max Schulte / WXXI News

Two years ago, Dariana Vargas worked at Creekview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Gates.

She lasted only a month.

“It was just horrible,” Vargas said. “I decided that I'm not working in nursing homes again, because I'm not going to be a part of that culture that they have over there.”

According to New York state’s Department of Health, from 2017 through 2021, Creekview received 198 complaints. It also received 120 citations -- five times the statewide average. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Monroe County's latest COVID-19 data, released Tuesday, shows 197 new cases. 

Five people also died between April 8-26.

The county's seven-day rolling average of new cases is 213 per day, and the average positivity rate is 3%.

There are 221 people in the Finger Lakes region who are hospitalized; 46 of them are in the intensive care unit.

Nearly 51% of Monroe County residents have received at least one vaccine dose, and almost 40% are fully vaccinated. 

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