COVID infections up but high schools told few examples of transmission with football

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ROCHESTER, N.Y.(WHEC) — On Aug. 19, 2020, there were 29 new COVID cases in Monroe County. Thursday, the county reported 197 new cases.

And those numbers keep the county officials up at night because schools and high school football start in two weeks.

"We’re not necessarily at a crisis situation or on a high alert yet with our new numbers," County Executive Adam Bello said.

But Bello says the numbers are a reminder to be careful.

He pointed to the example of the Hillsborough County Public School District in Tampa, Florida.

After one week of school, the district reported more than 10,000 students and more than 300 staff isolated or quarantined because of COVID.

Thursday, Hillsborough schools said masks are mandatory.

Dr. Mike Mendoza is the Monroe County public health commissioner.

Brean: "Dr. Mendoza this week you met with school leaders. What did you tell them about high school sports particularly football because it’s a face-to-face contact sport?"

Mendoza: "Shared with them the experience we have in the health department particularly around football which is that there really haven’t been very many examples if any of on-field transmission of COVID between football players. I did share with him what we do know which is that off the field, interactions in locker rooms and parties before and after games and so forth tend to be more risky."

When we’ve gone to the school board meetings this month, we’ve seen parents scream at their school board members.

Brean: "What do you think of the tension and some of the anger we’re seeing at school board meetings especially when it comes to the issue of masks?"

Mendoza: "Well this is a tough time for people because a lot of expectations have built up for this coming school year."

Mendoza said he understands people don’t want to go back to masks.

Mendoza: "Reality is if you step back and put this in perspective we are looking at reopening schools fully for the first time in over 18 months. Just a year ago that wasn’t even on the table. And if you had to choose between wearing a mask we’re having the six feet of distancing which is essentially precluded full-time, in-person school, I would view that mask-wearing is an effective lesser of two evils."

On Aug. 17, 2020, there were 29 COVID patients in hospitals in the Rochester Finger Lakes region. On Aug. 17, 2021, the number was 109.