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Gov. Andrew Cuomo warns of a COVID surge after Thanksgiving during a briefing at the state Capitol on Nov. 18, 2020. New York State Team

Latest live updates and case numbers from the Rochester area. Check this page throughout the day for frequent updates.

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ROCHESTER, NY?¡ª?Monroe County remained in New York's yellow zone?Thursday as the number of COVID-19 cases in the county passed the 11,100 mark.

'These are going to be the hardest months'

Hospitalizations of COVID patients continue to rise across the region, with Rochester General and Unity both reporting ICUs near capacity.

Strong and Highland are not. That space can be adjusted, adding more beds by taking from another area. The concern comes when numbers rise to a level that staffing becomes an issue.

Separately, Monroe County is adding 50 temporary positions in its health department and reassigning staff to improve outreach and response efforts, including its call center operations at (585) 753-5555. (People can apply for the temp jobs, which will pay $15/hour, starting Friday at monroecounty.gov.)

A?free COVID testing site at Monroe Community College will expand operations, adding Sunday. The hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays;?8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends.

One bright spot is that rapid testing in schools has thus far not found a large number of cases, confirming officials assumptions that the asymptomatic positivity rate is very low and that those buildings?are not major sources of spreading the virus.?

"I don¡¯t see any reason why schools should have to close," said Bello, who is optimistic that the county might not progress in state-mandated restrictions. "We will continue to advocate that (schools stay open). We will continue to advocate whatever we need to do to keep them open. ¡­?That is my No. 1 priority right now."

County Executive Adam Bello said he hopes to announce in the coming days the availability of rapid testing for business sectors, such as bars and restaurants.

There are positive signs that the community's positivity rate is also plateauing, even showing signs of improving, said Dr. Michael Mendoza, the county's public health commissioner. School results would not have factored in until Wednesday's numbers, which marked the third-straight day of gradual decline.

Of concern is the proportion of under-60 and under-40 population testing positive (31% and 7% respectively), while also those in congregate housing like nursing homes (17% of new cases, of late). Said Mendoza: "We are seeing sporadic cases in nursing homes, not nearly as many as we were seeing earlier in the year. ¡­ I appreciate the desire to want to visit our loved ones in nursing homes, (but) now is not the time to open that door."

Bottom line: People are going to have to adjust behaviors again, Mendoza said. Keep Thanksgiving gatherings to those in the household. Reconsider carpooling, and consider working from home. Limit outings.

Word of vaccines means the end of all this is in sight. But despite the fatigue all are feeling, Bello said, the only way to get there is through: "These are going to be the hardest months."

Where does Finger Lakes?region stand on COVID restrictions?

Whether the Finger Lakes and, more specifically, Monroe County is moving toward greater COVID-related restrictions is unclear. But Robert Duffy, who heads the region¡¯s ¡°control room¡± as part of the state¡¯s coronavirus response, was at times optimistic Wednesday evening after a conference call with local health system and school district officials?and Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza. And at times not.

He spoke of a sense of ¡°bright spots coming,¡± hints of a leveling off, and overall promising initial testing numbers in area schools. The low positivity in those tests will keep overall numbers down. But Mendoza has said he is working out a way to separate and show school data versus the rest of the community, as it is important to see both. The worry is the holidays, people gathering, and the virus spreading even faster, pushing the community further along the state¡¯s yellow-orange-red levels of lockdown.

COVID microclusters: What do NY's red, orange and yellow zones mean?

¡°If we go orange, and God forbid we go to red,¡± Duffy said, ¡°¡­ there are going to be countless people in this region who are going to lose their livelihoods, lose their business.¡±

Duffy, president and CEO of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and the former New York state lieutenant governor, said the data will drive any such decision while also suggesting Gov. Andrew Cuomo ¡°may be giving us the benefit of the doubt in the short term.¡±

Collaboration in the region, with UR Medicine, Rochester Regional Health and other institutional leaders is unmatched in the state, Duffy said. But the Finger Lakes region¡¯s overall rate of positive COVID test results is second highest in the state, behind Western New York. And while parts of Erie County are moving into orange-zone restrictions this week, the positivity rate in Orleans (which has no free testing sites) and Wyoming counties is worse?¨C?among the highest in the state.

¡°I hate wearing a mask,¡± Duffy said, but explained that he does so religiously because the only way out of the pandemic and the zones is to take the necessary precautions, to also social distance, wash hands, sanitize. ¡°We have to keep reinforcing this with our family and friends and coworkers.¡±

He continued: ¡°This is serious. It is not a political issue. It is one of public health and common sense. ¡­ This is not some time to be anti-government, and think your freedom has been restricted. It has not. This is a public health issue.¡±

¨C Brian Sharp

COVID-19 outbreak at Wyoming prison could be harbinger of more to come

As COVID-19 cases continue to shoot upward across New York, the inmates and workers at state prisons are again worried about keeping the virus under control behind prison walls.

The medium-security Wyoming Correctional Facility in Attica provides a snapshot of what the prisons could face in coming weeks.

Testing at the prison in October returned no positive cases out of 985 tested. But, according to corrections officials, an inmate this month displayed mild symptoms and tested positive. Through contact tracing, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, or DOCCS, conducted 125 tests and found 45 inmates to be positive.

One has since recovered, and most of the other cases are asymptomatic. None of the inmates are at outside hospitals.

Jesse Johnston, a former state prison inmate who has friends at the prison, said, "Everybody there is nervous and worried that nobody will help them."

- Gary Craig

COVID cases on the rise in New York

ALBANY ¨C COVID-19 remains on the rise in New York, with some areas of the state getting hit harder now than they did during the first wave of the pandemic in March and April.?

On Thursday, New York reported 5,310 new coronavirus cases from the previous day, pushing the state's total past 579,000 confirmed cases since the start of March.?

Daily briefing: Cuomo rips sheriffs for refusing to enforce Thanksgiving gathering limit

Investigation: COVID is threatening NY hospitals. Will elective surgeries stop again? What to know

It's the latest in a string of daily infections that rival those seen in late April in New York, when a huge number of cases in New York City and the surrounding area hit the state harder than anywhere else in the country.

The increase is part of a large national surge in COVID-19 cases, with?most states faring far worse than New York right now. But that's likely of little comfort to central New York, the Finger Lakes and the Southern Tier, where coronavirus hospitalizations are at or near all-time highs.?

New COVID cases in Monroe County

Monroe County announced?373 new cases, a new daily high,?along with four new deaths reported on Thursday. That up considerably from 224 new cases Wednesday.?

Hospitalizations

There were?225 people hospitalized (up from 211), and 44 in ICU (down from 46).

In other metrics:

The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 260 new cases per day.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases was?249 new cases per day Wednesday.

The seven-day rolling average positivity rate for Monroe County on Thursday was? 4.04%.

Deaths

There were 4?new deaths. The total is 313 to date.

Here are the 373 new cases broken down by age and gender:?

  • 6 Females under 10
  • 9 Males under 10
  • 19 Females 10-19
  • 27 Males 10-19
  • 39 Females in their?20s
  • 30 Males in their?20s
  • 1 Non-binary in 20s
  • 35 Females in their 30s
  • 24?Males in their?30s
  • 26 Females in their?40s
  • 30 Males in their?40s
  • 25 Females in their 50s
  • 33 Males in their?50s
  • 21 Females in their 60s
  • 19 Males in their?60s
  • 9 Females in their 70s
  • 8 Males in their?70s
  • 5 Females in their 80s
  • 5 Males in their?80s
  • 2 Females in their 90s

Recovered from Isolation

There have been 9,105?released from isolation ¨C confirmed cases to date.

The total number of COVID-19 cases to date is 11,107.

This coverage is made possible with support from Democrat and Chronicle subscribers. Thank you.

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