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County to Review Effectiveness of COVID-19 Testing at Churches Before Committing to More Events

Patti Singer

Monroe County and the city will review information from 12 days of COVID-19 testing and determine whether to continue coming to neighborhoods to screen people for the novel coronavirus and offer flu shots.

“We’ve had several hundred folks that were tested right in the community where they live,” County Executive Adam Bell said during an online news conference Oct. 15. “That is critically important that we bring our services to where people are to break down barriers in access to those services.”

Bello and Dr. Michael Mendoza, Monroe County health commissioner, spoke at the first of a series of weekly COVID-19 updates that right now have no end date.

Over the past seven months, one or both of them have given updates, but there wasn’t a schedule until now. The first update came as the county has seen an increase in the number of positive cases, but Mendoza said that was because more tests are being done.

Some of those tests were conducted at select city churches starting from Oct. 5. The final sessions are from noon to 7 p.m. Oct. 16 and 17 at House of Prayer and Restoration 545 Hudson Ave. Flu shots also are available.

Bello said the testing has gone “incredibly well.” He offered no specifics for how it would be evaluated and the criteria used for continuing the testing and flu shots beyond saying, “Should we continue to see that need in the community, the opportunity could exist to continue that.”

Overall, Monroe County continues to manage the pandemic. Bello cited a report in the New York Times that said Monroe County has the lowest rate of COVID-19 in the country for communities of more than 500,000 people.

He reported that the county is using CARES Act funding to provide personal protective equipment to schools, day cares and salons and barbershops. Businesses in need can email to request items.

He said the county also is using CARES Act money to help people faced with eviction or foreclosure. Residents can call 211 to apply for the assistance.

Other topics:

  • Increase in the number of positive cases: Since Oct. 9, the county has reported between 23 and 54 new cases a day. Mendoza said the county is doing more testing. The three-day average as of Oct. 15 was 1,451. That’s slightly more than the previous rolling averages. The average on Oct. 9 was 1,721. Mendoza said the county has identified some clusters, including one from a carpool. He said large gatherings have been risky and he is concerned about what may happen when people start gathering inside as the weather gets colder.
  • Halloween activities: Trick or treaters need to cover their nose and mouth, stay six feet apart, limit contact to family and sanitize often. Given those precautions, Mendoza said it’s relatively safe. He said associated activities, such as pre- and post- trick or treat gatherings and indoor haunted houses pose more risks.
  • Thanksgiving and winter holidays: Mendoza said the county health department would release guidance in early November.
  • Vaccine: Mendoza said he did not anticipate a vaccine for several months. He said he would not endorse a vaccine unless the data from trials show it is safe and effective. “That is the only way we can properly evaluate whether a vaccine is ready for prime time.”