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Health & Wellness

Officials say Genesee, Orleans Counties remain 'high risk' for COVID transmission

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Families in Genesee and Orleans Counties are being urged to pursue vaccinations for their children ages 5 and older, while public leaders also recommend individuals continue to use caution as cooler weather brings people indoors and the holidays approach.

Genesee County officials hosted a COVID briefing Thursday morning, during which time they reminded the public that their region remains, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a “high transmission risk” area.

According to numbers provided Thursday, 222 people in Genesee County were in COVID isolation including 15 hospitalized, while in Orleans County 212 people were isolated and eight hospitalized. The seven-day positivity rate in Orleans County was 7.8%.

“In Genesee County, there's been 1,891 new cases since August 1,” said Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee and Orleans Counties. ”There's been 445 individuals fully vaccinated, 1,259 individuals not fully vaccinated or unknown status. So we're seeing around a 27% breakthrough case in Genesee County for fully vaccinated folks.”

Pettit said there were 1,483 new positive cases in Orleans County since August 1 including 331 individuals who were fully vaccinated, for a breakthrough case rate of about 25%.

Both counties are hosting weekly COVID vaccination clinics, with Genesee County hosting its sessions every Wednesday, and Orleans County doing so on Thursdays. The two counties share a website where registration is available.

Pettit suggests families with children no eligible to receive a COVID shot speak first with their health care provider, as part of making an informed decision. He also defends the continued wearing of masks in schools, noting that 15 to 20 percent of active cases in that region are school-aged children.

“Obviously, this has been frustrating for many parents, and you know it's been controversial. But ultimately, we have seen a significant improvement in the reduction of quarantines in students this year,” he said. “And what that has allowed for, is better continuity of education. The kids have been able to stay in school and continue to learn in the in-class environment, which is, you know, something that our superintendents have been very vocal about in wanting to make sure we can keep these kids in person and keep them learning and keep that continuity. The masking has helped to reduce spread, and to keep these kids most importantly off the quarantine, and in-person in school.”

Because the region remains in a “high transmission risk” status, officials are not requiring but strongly recommending the continued use of masks in indoor settings, especially in crowded places. Pettit noted that people are spending more time indoors as the weather turns colder, and Genesee County Legislature Chair Shelley Stein noted that people will desire to hold gatherings when the holidays return.

She shared Pettit’s call for caution.

“I believe it is absolutely imperative that we do suggest that all of those that are eligible to receive the vaccine do so, and those that are eligible to receive the booster, do so,” Stein said. “Because without recovering our public health, we do not recover our economy. We do not have families that will be gathering in the ways that we would like to gather, as we have almost been held apart for these two years.”