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Race, Ethnicity Data Lacking as COVID Cases Rise

Patti Singer

Dr. Michael Mendoza talks about the rise in COVID-19 cases. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group from Monroe County Zoom recording

On Aug. 10, 2020, Monroe County reported 20 new cases of COVID-19 and 34 hospitalizations.

Granted, those numbers were before the January spike that had the county reporting between 400 and 600 new cases a day for much of that month. But since February, daily cases slowly decreased.

Until recently. On Aug. 10, 2021, Monroe County reported 93 new cases and has averaged more than 100 new daily cases for the previous week. Approximately 60 people were hospitalized.

While the cases last Aug. 10 did not involve anyone younger than 10, this time more than 50 youngsters are infected.

Race and ethnic data of the recent cases is not available for the recent cases as data collection over the past few months has shifted to tracking which groups are being vaccinated.

The most recent information on the Monroe County COVID-19 dashboard is from April 1. The surveillance and analysis was a joint project of the county and the Center for Community Health and Prevention at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

The lack of current data makes it difficult to know whether Black and Latino residents continue to be affected by COVID-19 at rates higher than their representation in the general population, even as vaccine clinics are being held in minority neighborhoods.

Dr. Michael Mendoza, commissioner of the Department of Public Health, said the Center for Community Health “have had to shift their priorities away from that project. So we’re not able to get the data as quickly as we have been in the past.”

Mendoza, speaking during the county’s regular COVID-19 media briefing, said the data are “certainly very important. Obviously, we’re going to work to get those data again. So more to come.”

Asked via email about the status of the data, a spokeswoman for the Center for Community Health and Prevention said the county would have the most recent COVID-19 data on race and ethnicity and “hopefully, we’ll be able to get back to that important data soon.”

Other topics from the Aug. 10 news conference with Mendoza and County Executive Adam Bello

Increase in COVID cases: Mendoza said at least 10% of new cases are connected to travel to Florida or connected to visitors from Florida staying with family and friends. Illness is spreading in small workplaces, where people are coming in with symptoms and infecting colleagues. Transmission also is happening in households where a child who isn’t able to be vaccinated is exposed and COVID spreads to the rest of the family. Mendoza said there wasn’t detailed demographic data on people hospitalized with COVID infection, but most were not vaccinated.

Masks: Mendoza highly recommends wearing masks indoors in public places such as your workplace and in stores. He also suggested careful thought around weddings, reunions and large social gatherings. If you can’t avoid such an event, he suggested getting tested.

Schools: After the state Department of Health said it would leave policy to individual districts, the state Education Department said it would issue guidance. Mendoza said the county health department is working with schools and he recommended they follow guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Booster shots: Mendoza said the CDC’s committee on immunization practices was scheduled to meet Aug. 13, and he expected some guidance might be issued.