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Local hospitals ban visitors; governor demands masks for first responders and government employees work from home

Jennifer Lewke
Updated: March 17, 2020 03:33 PM
Created: March 16, 2020 05:33 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester Regional Health and UR Medicine hospitals have stopped allowing in-person visitation until further notice.

The ban impacts all the facilities in Monroe County and across the region.

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According to Monroe County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza, only limited exceptions for patients who are children, mothers giving birth and extreme circumstances will be considered.

“Patients in nursing homes and hospitals are most vulnerable to COVID-19, so we need to do all we can to prevent exposure to those patients along with the staff members who care for them,” Mendoza said. “These exceptionally difficult times require us to make decisions that are emotionally painful in order to protect the physical health of people we care about.”  

The zero visitation policy takes effect immediately at Highland, Rochester General, Strong Memorial and Unity hospitals.  

As of Monday afternoon, there were 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Monroe County.

Dozens, if not hundreds of people are being tested so that number is expected to rise quickly.  

In order to try to slow the spread state-wide, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced new protocols that all municipalities will have to follow including a mandate that half of county employees work from home and all local municipalities provide masks to all first responders.   

“Through our emergency operations center, we are working with our first responders to make sure they have the supplies they need and coordinating with them and our hospital systems to make sure that if there are supplies they may start running low on, we play a role to help with that response to make sure they stay supplied as well,” Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said at a press conference on Monday.  

Cuomo is also asking local governments to identify space for temporary hospital beds if hospitals were to become overcrowded.

“We are very actively working on that. We spent an incredible amount of time yesterday, today and over the last several weeks," Bello said. "We've had a lot of conversations, but we're working on that actively today because we're going to have a lot of people, in addition to beds, people who are going to need to quarantine themselves at home and need to be able to do it safely."

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