COVID cases are rising again

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COVID-19 cases are surging here again, with Monroe County reporting 550 new confirmed cases Thursday.

It is the highest one-day total since mid-January. The seven-day average of new cases was 340—also higher than it has been in months.

“As much as we would all like to see an end to this pandemic, today’s new caseload is a clear indication that COVID-19 is still very much a part of our lives. As we know, an increasing caseload will translate into increasing hospitalizations in the coming weeks if we cannot get the virus under control,” warned Michael Mendoza M.D., Monroe County health commissioner.

In a briefing Wednesday, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello urged the community to go back to the basics—wearing a mask, staying home when unwell and taking a COVID test—to prevent the spread. 

“The best thing that you can do beyond wearing a mask, beyond washing our hands, and being sanitary and staying home when we are sick, is vaccination,” Bello said. “Vaccination is by far the best way to ensure the safety of our most vulnerable citizens, our senior citizens and our youngest children.”

To date, Monroe County has delivered more than 514,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, an increase of more than 4,000 doses in less than a week, he said. The county’s vaccination rate sits at 70 percent—with roughly more than 77 percent of eligible persons with at least one vaccine dose. The county has begun vaccinating children in the 5-11 age group with the approved Pfizer vaccine.

The latest data, Mendoza said, show that the rate of hospitalization for unvaccinated people is nearly 10 times that of vaccinated individuals. On the testing front, the positivity rate is on the rise. On a seven-day average, more than 6 percent of tests were positive as of Nov. 10, the Monroe County COVID-19 Dashboard shows.

Mendoza cautioned that the community is just beginning to enter the influenza season. There have been several dozen cases reported across the state and a handful locally. 

“To be very clear, COVID-19 is still a pandemic. As much as we want it to be over, it is not,” he said, adding that this fact, the approaching holidays and the onset of the flu season concern him. 

Last year’s preventive measures around COVID-19 effectively eliminated the spread of flu.

“We are in a very different place this year,” Mendoza said. “We are already seeing cases of the flu and we know if prior years are any indication, that people can and will be hospitalized and perhaps get very sick from influenza this year.”

While addressing the COVID-19 hospitalization rate, he stressed that the current admissions are largely due to unvaccinated individuals requiring additional care. Still, Mendoza acknowledged that a small percentage of vaccinated individuals have experienced infections and require hospital admission.

“One of the reasons for this (is), early vaccinations are starting to lose their efficacy or effectiveness. This vaccine was never going to be 100 percent effective,” he said.

Residents eligible for a booster shot should get one, in addition to the flu shot, county officials said, to mitigate the stress on the health care system. 

“The real silver bullet here is vaccination,” Bello said.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

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