As Covid cases surge locally, a plea for public to protect selves and others

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 January 2022 at 12:38 pm

4 simple steps: get vaccinated, take a Covid test, stay home if test positive or if feel sick

Screenshot: Paul Pettit, public health director in Orleans and Genesee counties, speaks to media during a Zoom online meeting today.

Covid cases are surging dramatically locally, following the indoor gatherings over the holidays and spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Genesee had 1,509 new cases in December, which was by far the most it had during the pandemic – until this month. The county already reported 2,118 cases during the first 10 days of January.

Orleans had 1,045 cases in November, the most during the pandemic for Orleans, and followed that with 938 in December. The county already has 1,125 in the first 10 days of January.

Paul Pettit, public health director in the two counties, spoke about the “unprecedented spike in cases” today during a monthly update with local media.

The number of cases, nearly 3,000 in the two counties in the past week, has overwhelmed the local health department, forcing staff to limit contact tracing to those 18 and younger, and senior citizens (65 and older) who are more vulnerable to the virus.

Those who aren’t contacted by the health department for case investigations and contact tracing should continue to quarantine and stay home for at least five days. If they don’t have symptoms they can go out of the house but should wear a well-fitting mask in public, Pettit said.

If symptoms persist, people should continue to isolate for 10 days, Pettit said.

Both counties have done mass Covid test kit distributions and Matt Landers, Genesee County manager, said Genesee will be doing more at a drive-through distribution and by getting the kits out to town and village halls around the county.

The local schools are seeing “recond number of abseetism” with students and staff due to the Covid spread, Pettit said.

He meets with school superintendents weekly and he joins them in being committed to keeping schools open. The increased Covid testing has identified more cases and help to isolate those with the virus.

He urged parents not to send kids to school if they are symptomatic and not feeling well.

Dan Ireland, president of the United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia, said the hospital is near capacity with 86 percent of beds filled.

The hospital can still do emergency surgeries and respond to the community if there are broken bones, an appendicitis and other healthcare needs. He said 36 percent of the people currently hospitalized at UMMC have Covid. That shows the hospital is tending to other healthcare needs in the community besides Covid, Ireland said.

The “strong majority” of those in the hospital with Covid weren’t vaccinated. And none of those on ventilators with Covid took the vaccine, Ireland said.

“Those who are vaccinated are faring much better than those who aren’t,” he said.