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Rochester Starts Memorial to Residents Lost to COVID-19

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

As the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 approached, the city started an online memorial that is expected to become an actual memorial to people who died from the illness. Image from https://covid19memorial.wp.cityofrochester.gov

As the one-year anniversary of the city’s first case of COVID-19 approaches, Mayor Lovely Warren launched the COVID-19 Online Memorial on Feb. 25 to honor all citizens who died from the illness.

The mayor’s mother is among the more than 1,000 people across Monroe County who succumbed to the novel coronavirus. The first case of COVID-19 in this area was reported March 11, 2020, in a city resident.

The first death of a Rochester resident was March 17.

Racial and ethnic data on the deaths in Monroe County has not been updated on the Monroe County COVID-19 dashboard since November. As of that posting, the age-adjusted rate of deaths among Blacks (68.3 per 100,000 population) and Latinos (68.1 per 100,000) outpaced that of whites (33 per 100,000).

The memorial is open for all residents of Monroe County.

“We’ve had a very trying year as so many families and loved ones, including my mother, lost their lives due to this relentless virus,” Warren said in a news release. “I encourage residents to visit the online memorial to share sentiments about their loved ones whose memories will live forever in our hearts.”

Residents can view the memorial and submit sentiments about their loved and the person’s name and image. The website is https://covid19memorial.wp.cityofrochester.gov/  

The online memorial is the first phase of collecting images and memories that will be used to create a physical memorial in the city. The mayor’s Equity & Recovery Agenda calls for an Arts and Equity Fund, which will provide the capital for local artists to create the future physical memorial in honor of Rochester’s lost citizens.

On March 16, Warren and City Council will issue a proclamation to honor the Rochesterians lost to COVID-19 on March 16.

In other COVID-19 news:

Students’ mental health at stake

State Senator Samra Brouk, who represents the 55th District, has scheduled an online town hall on the effect of COVID-19 on education and the mental health of students.

The forum is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. March 3 and reservations can be made at bit.ly/StudentsMentalHealthMar3.

The forum features a panel discussion among students, teachers and mental health professionals.

In announcing the event, Brouk said students “are bearing an enormous burden during this time, and we want to work together to creat solutions that will meet their needs.”

Brouk also said that, “Given the new CDC recommendations on reopening schools, I believe it is time to put plans in place for a safe return of our students, teachers, and staff, including equitable access to vaccinations for the adults who care for our children in schools.”

Third dose the charm?

The University of Rochester Medical Center and Rochester Regional Health are studying the safety and effectiveness of a third dose, or booster, of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The vaccine currently is authorized for a two-dose regimen.

Determining the effects of a third dose could help develop long-term vaccination strategies against COVID-19.

URMC and RRH have been involved in the development of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine since the launch of phase 1 clinical trials in May 2020. Volunteers in Rochester were among the first in the nation to receive the then experimental vaccine. 

Rochester was also a site for the phase 2 and 3 clinical trials that ultimately led to the vaccine’s emergency use authorization (EUA) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last December.  Since then, tens of millions of people across the globe have received at least one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. 

The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and Rochester Regional Health (RRH) have begun a new clinical trial that will evaluate the safety and efficacy of a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.  The vaccine is currently approved for a two dose regimen. This study represents an important step in the development of long-term vaccination strategies to protect against circulating and emerging variants of the virus.

The new study will involve 35 individuals who participated in the phase 1 trials last spring, all of whom were fully vaccinated more than six months ago. Rochester is one of four sites in the U.S. involved in the study, and a total of 144 volunteers are expected to participate.

The protection of vaccines can decrease over time. The findings of the study will help vaccine developers combat emerging strains.