Monroe County records highest single-day total of new reported COVID-19 cases

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A total of 1,822 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Monroe County on Thursday and the numbers are only expected to rise. There were 1,680 new laboratory-confirmed cases and 142 new positive home tests reported and while some of those cases reflect a backlog from earlier in the week, there is no doubt community transmission is high.

“We don’t believe we’ve peaked,” said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, “we should expect more and I think even 2,000 cases a day as what’s likely in the next coming days.”

At this point, the contact tracing system in place simply can’t keep up.

“The purpose of contact-tracing is to break the chain of disease transmission,” explained Dr. Michael Mendoza, Monroe County Health Commissioner, “Unfortunately, with omicron as contagious as it is and with an incubation period thought to be as short as two to four days, it is much more challenging than ever (before) and we are simply are not able to reach everyone quickly enough.”

When it comes to those sick enough to need hospital care, “we are not at last year’s peak levels in terms of hospitalizations but the percentage of patients who are critically ill is higher,” said Dr. Michael Apostolakos, the Chief Medical Officer at Strong and Highland Hospitals.

Currently, of the 122 COVID-19 patients in the hospital from Monroe County, 97 of them are not fully vaccinated. Of the 33 patients in the ICU, 29 of them are not fully vaccinated and of the 28 on ventilators, 25 are not vaccinated.

“As an intensivist, I care for these patients first and I’ve spoken to these patients before they went on life support and to their families and none of them thought that they could get this ill from COVID” said Dr. Apostolakos.

When community transmission is this high, just about every business gets hit with a sometimes debilitating number of sick calls and the health systems are no different. Healthcare workers in New York State were mandated to get the vaccine and most have gotten the booster so most positive cases aren’t severe but, “the fact that they’re sick with COVID means they can’t work so, we are concerned about that. We’ve had historic numbers of faculty and staff become infected and who are now quarantined because of COVID,” Dr. Apostolakos said.

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New state regulations allow “critical” workers to return to work five days after a positive COVID test if he/she is vaccinated and asymptomatic—it helps but it doesn’t solve the problem.

“If the surge continues and worsens it could get to the point that we may have to cut back on services in order to pull staff in and be able to care for our urgent and emergent needs,” Dr. Apostolakos said. "When asked what kind of services they’d have to cut back on, “we may have to pause some of our essential surgeries, ones that aren’t emergent to bring over staff, we are not close to that yet but it could happen in the next couple of weeks if the surge causes increased admissions and loss of staff.”

Something that’s also becoming time-consuming for health systems is people who test positive for COVID-19 at home but then come to an urgent care or emergency room to confirm with a PCR test.

“Many people require confirmation for employment purposes or other administrative purposes and that’s really problematic because the last thing we want is somebody who has COVID going out into a setting where they may actually potentially infect other people,” Dr. Mendoza said, “please avoid the emergency room if you can, please avoid urgent care… go to a pharmacy or if there’s space at one of our county health department testing sites, please go there.”

Monroe County will give out about 330,000 KN95 masks that were supplied by the state to essential workers and first responders.

The mask distribution is now underway by either direct pick-up or county delivery to the following:

  • Rochester Regional Health.
  • University of Rochester Medical Center.
  • Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce.
  • Monroe County school districts, for teachers and staff
  • Monroe County employees.
  • The local non-profit community.
  • Local governments in the county.
  • Fire departments, law enforcement and EMS.

Watch the full press conference in the video in the player below (mobile users, click here):

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