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After a Year in a Pandemic, Here’s What’s Happening in Rochester

Although the Empire State was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And in the Flower City, many are hopeful that we could return to normal sooner rather than later. Although it’s imperative to remain cautious and to take preventative measures seriously, the end is in sight — even if we’re not quite there yet. Here’s the latest of what’s happening in Rochester during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Cases and Hospitalizations Have Dropped

Anywhere from 8,000 to 18,000 people are hospitalized for Legionnaires’ disease in the U.S. each year, but COVID-19 hospitalizations have been a much greater concern over the past 12 months. While the number of statewide deaths from COVID-19 inch toward 40,000, it does look like we’re seeing a downturn in those hospitalization rates both in Rochester and statewide. In New York State, media outlets reported in mid-March that COVID-19 hospitalizations dropped below 4,500 for the first time since December, with the number of ICU patients decreasing to 927. Overall, the state has experienced a 52% decrease in coronavirus hospitalizations since the peak that occurred in mid-January following the winter holidays.

Throughout the Western New York region, hospitalization rates equate to just .01% of the area’s population. On March 8, local media reported that Rochester’s hospitalization rates were as low as those recorded in mid-November, while the county also experienced a record for the fewest cases in a single day since November 3. At that time, Monroe County was averaging 116 new cases per day during that past week, with a seven-day rolling average positivity rate of 1.6%. As of March 13, the seven-day rolling average positivity rate had dropped to 1.5%, with 108 new cases reported. That’s certainly good news, though it’s important to note that a significant portion of new cases were young people; since these individuals are less likely to be eligible for vaccination right now and may assume that the risks of COVID-19 severity are lower for people in their teens, 20s, and 30s, this could point to new challenges in encouraging these demographics to stay vigilant in order to keep the community on the right path.

Vaccines Are More Readily Available

Although the COVID-19 vaccines are not yet available for every adult in New York State, it won’t be long before that’s likely to become a reality. President Biden has already instructed all states to make these vaccines available for all adults by May, so we may have only a few months to go before inoculation is more widespread.

For now, however, Monroe County is already making headway. Despite the initially slow rollout, one-quarter of residents throughout the county have already been vaccinated. Although only 21.7% of New Yorkers have received the vaccine statewide and limited supply remains a problem, Governor Cuomo has expressed that the state has made a lot of progress in a short period of time. Now that Gov. Cuomo has now expanded the vaccine eligibility to those aged 60 and over — a population that’s set to double worldwide between 2015 and 2050 — there’s hope that even more Rochester residents will have a chance to receive the protection they need. As more pop-up and mass vaccination sites are being established throughout the Rochester area, the city is taking steps to bridge the gap and help residents secure appointments and transportation to these sites. Although we have a long way to go, it’s encouraging that appointments are being snatched up quickly and that outreach is being performed to encourage minority communities — who have been found to have a higher risk of COVID-19 complications — to get vaccinated when they’re able.

Events Given the Go-Ahead

Although the financial consequences of the pandemic are still being felt by residents all across the city and state, there’s good news for artists, engaged couples, and venues: in-person receptions and events probably won’t be outright canceled this spring and summer. Although nine out of 10 services held today have loved ones who are unable to attend, virtual festivals and weddings might soon become a thing of the past.

Just this week, Governor Cuomo announced that wedding receptions and catered events can now resume across the state, with venues restricted to 50% capacity and with no more than 150 attendees per event. Attendees must also provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination prior to the event, while sign-ins must be required to assist in potential contact tracing.

As for arts and entertainment, there’s good news there, too. As of April 2, these venues can reopen at 33% capacity, with limits of up to 100 people indoors and up to 200 outdoors. Should the venue require testing for entry, they’re allowed up to 150 people inside and up to 500 outdoors. Face coverings and social distancing will still be required. At a time when the city is gearing up for a number of possible festivals and events that typically draw big crowds, the new restrictions are encouraging — though many organizations will have to hustle in order to get their ducks in a row (and prepare to change their plans if case rates rise once more).

Admittedly, we’re not out of the woods yet. With around 100 new cases of COVID-19 being confirmed in Rochester each day, we still have a lot of work to do. But with more vaccine availability and continued preventative methods, we could be well on our way to a return to normalcy in Rochester.