Mayor Lovely Warren remembered her mother and the more than 1,100 other residents who died from COVID-19 in an emotional speech during a ceremony March 11 to mark one year since the first case was reported in Rochester and Monroe County.
“A year ago, I did not think I would be here, standing here, having lost my mom to the virus,” Warren said as her voice broke.
March 17, 2020, marked the first death in Monroe County. The city has launched an online portal for remembrances. At some point, a physical memorial will be erected.
Warren, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Monroe County Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Michael Mendoza were joined by executives of Rochester Regional Health and UR Medicine at a news conference at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center. As they were upstairs signing a proclamation marking March 11, 2021 at COVID-19 Commemoration Day, in ballrooms on the first floor county residents were receiving COVID-19 vaccine.
The mayor and other speakers urged residents to get vaccinated when they become eligible and vaccine is available.
The state finally has begun posting vaccination data by race and ethnicity. In Monroe County, African Americans made up 8.3% of people with at least one dose as of March 15. Latinos made up 5% of people with at least one dose.
Data on the number of Blacks and Latinos who tested positive for COVID-19 has not been updated on the Monroe County COVID-19 dashboard since late last year.
Much of the news conference was spent looking back at efforts of frontline workers to stay on the job when so little was known about the novel coronavirus and the dedication of health care workers as they care for hundreds of people who were hospitalized. The officials acknowledged the suffering of business owners and the anxiety of parents and children over remote learning.
Homage was given to the many who died – and the isolating way in which they passed.
“I think about the citizens in the nursing homes, secluded, quarantined and lonely, not able to feel the warm embrace of your loved ones,” Warren said. “Everyone who walked the same path my sister and I had to walk, lives will forever be changed.”
She wept when she described she and her sister watching on Facetime as her mother, Elrita “Rita” McClary Warren, was put on a ventilator. “The woman who gave us life, we couldn’t hug her, like so many other families across this country. It’s different, this death.”
In looking forward, Warren pointed to efforts she said would strengthen the community, such as cooperation between the two health systems and economic help for businesses.
“In our moments of grief, of uncertainty, we must keep the faith we are emerging on the other side of this — with healthier families, a healthier city, county, community, and nation.”