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Genesee and Orleans counties brace for COVID-19 test supply shortage, urge more vaccinations

A home COVID-19 test kit
Max Schulte
Orleans and Genesee County Public Health Director Paul Pettit said "a lot of the different (COVID) tests are on back order or not available currently.”

COVID-19 cases are on the rise in some rural areas and local leaders are urging people to take steps to prevent further infections. However, some of the resources needed to monitor infections may be in short supply.

Nearly 15,000 people in Orleans and Genesee counties have COVID-19, according to the health department for both counties, but the number of cases might get difficult to determine as COVID-19 tests become less available.

“A lot of the different tests are on back order or not available currently,” said Orleans and Genesee County Public Health Director Paul Pettit, “So it is going to become potentially more challenging as it’s strongly encouraged to get tested.”

Both counties will continue to offer testing while they have the resources, he said. Meanwhile, the counties’ public health department is developing a system to process results from home COVID-19 test kits, which Pettit suggested could roll out as early as next week.

“That would (then) trigger a case investigation just like if you went to a healthcare touch point and had a rapid test or PCR test,” he said.

Since August, about 30% of reported infections are breakthrough cases in people who have been vaccinated — something Pettit said should motivate more people to mask up and get their booster shots.

“We know that that protection is waning a little bit and obviously precipitates the need and why we’re really encouraging folk to get that booster shot as soon as possible,” Pettit said.

However, general vaccination rates are low in the area, with just 26% of Genesee County residents and 50% of Orleans County residents fully vaccinated, not counting boosters.

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said they are working on outreach efforts to Native American, Mennonite, and Amish communities that have been more hesitant to get vaccinated.