Local disease expert: Monroe County COVID spike due to variants, slowed vaccination rate

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — This week we’re averaging about 25% more new daily COVID cases than we were a month ago in Monroe County, that’s according to Monroe County COVID-19 dashboard.

But, why? To find out, News10NBC’s Emily Putnam spoke with the head of infectious diseases from Rochester Regional Health Dr. Emil Lesho about the rise in cases.

"Usually the sequence goes more infections, more hospitalizations, then the last thing you see are the deaths," Lesho said. "We haven’t seen that yet. what we’re seeing is increased positive testing."

From June 15 to June 21 we averaged 15 new cases per day. From July 15 to July 21, we’re averaging 22 new cases per day.

Lesho says there are a couple of reasons why we’re seeing more cases: One reason? Breakthrough infections among vaccinated people.

"We still have to continue to test in certain areas for regulatory reasons. right, if people are trying to go to long-term care facilities they need a test whether or not they have symptoms or not," Lesho said.

Another reason? The vaccination rate is plateauing.

According to the Finger Lakes Vaccine Hub, 680,397 people in the Finger Lakes Region have at least one dose, last week that number was 676,512. That’s a 0.6-percent increase. 615,531 people are currently fully vaccinated, which is up 0.7-percent from last week.

"So the second reason why we’re seeing an uptick in cases is that people who are not vaccinated are very susceptible to getting infected with this variant," Lesho said.

Lesho confirms that all new variants have shown up in our area and that all current vaccines are effective against the variants, but he says more variants could be coming.

"So the worry is that large groups of unvaccinated people will give the virus an opportunity to mutate even further and perhaps what will come out of that is a variant that the vaccines aren’t effective for," Lesho said.

There are a number of vaccine clinics happening across the city Saturday, including at the Jackson R-Center, the Lightfoot R-center, and Jones Park, among others. Monroe County also has a couple of clinics.