As new and more easily spread COVID-19 variants take hold, Rochester-area hospitalizations are on the rise. The unvaccinated are bearing the brunt.
On Aug. 10, 2020, Monroe County saw 20 new cases of COVID-19. Only three involved young people. None of those struck were children under 12.
Today, the county is averaging 100 new COVID cases a day. Over the past week, 118 area children were diagnosed with COVID. Nearly half of that number were under the age of 10. Sixty individuals of varying ages are currently hospitalized.
New COVID cases and deaths in Monroe County
Virtually all of the hospitalized patients are unvaccinated. Twenty-five percent are in intensive care.
So reported Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and County Health Commissioner Michael Mendoza M.D. Tuesday in a COVID update.
An interesting statistic: According to Mendoza, 10 percent of new local COVID sufferers are people who recently visited Florida, a state where hospital beds, intensive care unit accommodations and ventilators are at a premium as the state’s governor forbids mask mandates and opposes COVID vaccine mandates. Another significant locus of the resurgent virus’ spread appears to be small, indoor gatherings, Mendoza adds.
The rising case count comes as the county is seeing an enviable 70 percent rate of residents aged 12 and older with at least one vaccine dose. Sixty percent of that cohort are fully vaccinated. The percentages amount to 453,000 of the county’s more than 700,000 residents with one shot and 403,000 fully vaccinated.
Says Mendoza: “It’s not enough.”
At least three children less than 19 years old are among those locally with severe cases of COVID.
Officials are still gathering statistics on the demographic makeup of the newly rising round of COVID infections, Mendoza says. How many are children or others ineligible to get the shot, how many are hesitant and how many are opposed to vaccination is not yet known.
Meanwhile, “public health experts across the nation are raising alarms about the surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations among children, most of them too young to receive the vaccine,” Bello notes.
Food and Drug Administration approval for vaccinations of children under 12 is expected to come through by mid-winter.
In the meantime, Mendoza says, he plans to work with area school districts to work out policies and protocols for the returning school year. Each district will hammer out its own policy, hopefully in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the health commissioner says.
Will Astor is Rochester Beacon senior writer.
(This article has been updated to clarify that Florida’s governor opposes COVID vaccine mandates.)