Genesee and Orleans County officials discuss COVID contact tracing, testing, schools and more

BATAVIA, NY (WROC) – Genesee and Orleans county officials held a COVID-19 briefing Thursday morning to update residents on the pandemic, including recent local measures, availability of recalls, testing , etc

Briefing participants included Shelley Stein, Speaker of the Genesee County Legislature, Matt Landers, Genesee County Executive and Budget Officer, and Paul Pettit, Director of Public Health for Genesee and Orleans County.

Officials say that, like elsewhere in New York and beyond, the omicron variant has caused an increase in the number of new cases.

“We know it’s mostly due to omicron and the post-holiday push, but the variant is the main driver,” Pettit said.

Genesee County had 1,509 total positive cases of COVID-19 for the entire month of December and in the first 10 days of January the county had 2,118. Similarly, Orleans County recorded 938 new cases for the whole of December and 1,125 in the first 10 days of January.

With the influx of new cases, counties are changing contact tracing policy. Earlier this week, Governor Kathy Hochul said COVID-19 contact tracing was no longer necessary and local health departments could devote those resources to vaccinations and testing.

Pettit announced that Genesee and Orléans will soon launch a portal on its website where people can submit their COVID test results and receive the necessary documents for their employer or school.

“You’re going to have to ask your employer or school to see what kind of documents they need for you to return, all of that information and how to get each piece of documentation can be found on our website,” Pettit said. “Remember that with this process, there will be no county follow-up. You must self-isolate, contact those close to you, and ideally get tested before returning to the public.”

The health director said the change in contact tracing policy is due to the volume of new cases and a concentration of priorities.

“We know that COVID is more severe in the elderly and those with underlying illnesses, so we will be focusing on those areas of our population with respect to contact tracing and case investigations,” said Pettit said. “Contact tracing is not as effective with larger numbers. It is virtually impossible for us to review every case. It is important to move on to cases that require more attention rather than all members of the population.

In terms of isolation and quarantine for those who test positive or are exposed, counties will follow current New York State guidelines.

“Isolation for up to five days,” Pettit said. “If anyone is feeling unwell and has symptoms, those people should stay in isolation for those full 10 days, just like the last advice. Going out after five days doesn’t mean you’re not contagious to others or spreading disease, so it’s important to wear a properly fitted mask. This helps ensure that we eliminate any unintended exposure.

The health director said he meets regularly with superintendents and counties remain committed to keeping schools open.

“We continue to meet with all of our superintendents on a weekly basis and we are not changing any approaches until we receive new direction,” Pettit said. “I will tell you that we remain very committed to keeping schools open and allowing our children to learn in environments where they should be learning. That’s why it’s important that if someone is symptomatic, they stay home. House.”

Both counties are included in the Finger Lakes region, which currently has 711 people hospitalized with COVID-19, including 118 in an intensive care unit.

To date, Genesee County has reported 164 deaths from COVID-19 and Orleans has reported 104.

“Our data clearly showed that vaccinated people are doing much better than unvaccinated ones,” Pettit said. “The majority of the deaths we’ve seen are unvaccinated cases and none of them have come from people who received a booster.”

According to Dan Ireland, president of United Memorial Medical Center, a Rochester regional hospital in Batavia:

  • UMMC’s overall hospital capacity averaged 86% over the past six days
  • 100% of intensive care patients are not vaccinated at UMMC
  • 100% of ventilator patients are unvaccinated at UMMC
  • COVID patients represent 36% of the total population hospitalized at UMMC

Residents of Genesee and Orleans counties can register online for an immunization appointment.

The health director said the new state-run COVID-19 testing site is operational in Albion.

“Albion’s site offers pre-registration and walk-in testing,” Pettit said. “Testing response rates have been slower than expected, there has been a backlog, but this delay should be reduced. People should use testing; we fought hard for it and people must not take advantage of it. From today, the Albion site will offer free rapid and PCR tests.

The health director said it was important for residents to wear masks in public during the omicron push.

“We want people to wear masks,” Pettit said. “I believe we are heading towards an endemic pattern. Things are changing the way we go, but make sure if you’re sick, stay home, get that test, wash your hands often, and avoid losing contact with people who might be sick.

The health director said Genesee County had documented 54 flu cases and Orleans County had 17, more than last year when flu was effectively not a factor.

Watch the full briefing:

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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