Walk-ins being welcomed at all Monroe County-run COVID vaccination sites as enthusiasm wanes

Brian Sharp
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Rochester, NY — All Monroe County-run COVID vaccination sites — including the downtown Riverside Convention Center — have begun welcoming walk-ins for all eligible recipients, officials announced Thursday.

The state-run Dome Arena site is allowing walk-ins only for those 60 and older.

The news comes as providers across the region cite increasing difficulty in filling appointments, leading to a sharp drop in the vaccine allotted to the Finger Lakes region over the past two weeks.

Area hospitals have requested markedly fewer doses, officials said, fueling the falloff. The resulting allotment of 23,910 doses is the smallest shipment since mid-February, and is down from an average 37,000 weekly in the two months since.

“Even though the light at the end of the tunnel is brighter now … it is clear the initial enthusiasm for the vaccine is beginning to wane,” said Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza.

The lessening demand is being attributed to vaccine hesitancy but also, with appointments aplenty, a belief that some are simply procrastinating. Walk-ins, though, raise the prospect of wait times or wasted vaccine. Those still wanting to schedule an appointment at a county-run site can do so by calling 753-5555.

Vaccination rates vary greatly by ZIP code across Monroe County (see graphic below), as well as across the region.

While 48.7% of residents in Ontario County had received at least a first dose of vaccine as of Thursday, just 31.5% had done so in Orleans, according to the state. That is partly attributable to initially disparate allotments of the vaccine, officials said, noting that once behind it takes time to catch up.

"What we are seeing is the difference in the effectiveness between a generalized approach  … and an effectiveness approach," said Wade Norwood, co-leader of the Finger Lakes COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force. 

The hope is that vaccination rates will pick up again with greater local autonomy to design clinics, supply physicians offices and otherwise improves convenience and access. Officials also plan to soon launch a series of public service announcements aimed at dispelling vaccine myths, and encouraging people to get it.

Said Mendoza: “It is safe. It is effective. And it is free” He also encouraged physicians to reach out to their patients, and for those who are vaccinated to share their stories.

"We are not going to get to the end goal simply by spouting facts and figures," he said.

Mendoza, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren all have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. 

Pop-up COVID-19 vaccine clinic

Frontier Field is hosting a pop-up COVID-19 vaccine clinic from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 24.

The Monroe County-run event will offer first doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which is free and approved for anyone 16 or older.

Appointments are required and may be made on the county’s scheduling website or by calling the county’s COVID-19 hotline: (585) 753-5555.

Monroe County latest cases

There are 139 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of April 26. The 7-day rolling average of new cases is 222 new cases per day. The majority of the cases were in people aged 30 

The total number of positive cases to date in Monroe County is 61,405.

The 7-day rolling average positivity rate for Monroe County, based on combined NAAT/PCR and Antigen test results, is 2.9%.

The 7-day rolling average positivity rate for Monroe County, based on NAAT/PCR test results, is 7.19%. (MODERATE)

Case Rate per/100K last 7 days: 234.98 (HIGH)

210 people are hospitalized in the Finger Lakes region. 46 people are in ICU.

According to Monroe County Public Health 46.8% of the population have received at least one dose. 

Monroe County COVID-19 Dashboard dashboard.monroecounty.gov

New York State Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard https://forward.ny.gov/early-warning-monitoring-dashboard

Vaccine Information https://www.monroecounty.gov/health-covid19-vaccine

Younger patients driving latest surge; modeling projects 'slight rise,' no spike

The number of COVID hospitalizations and intensive care patients in the Finger Lakes is up 25% and 50%, respectively, over the past two weeks — tracking with the surge in new patients, records show.

That is being driven by a younger patients, said Dr. Michael Apostolakos, chief medical officer at the University of Rochester Medical Center. But, he continued, "it doesn't seem like, other than age, that the rest of the demographic has changed much."

Internal modeling, projecting what's to come, "suggest a slight increase by not a major spike, at this point," he said. "This is assuming people continue to get vaccinated, mask and social distance." But, he added, with shifting attitudes and guidelines as efforts are made to reopen the economy, "things are changing every day."

Disparities in rates of infection and hospitalization among under-served communities were more reflected in the first wave, a year ago, Apostolakos said. The common thread in hospitalizations, then as now, is comorbidities — heart and lung disease or obesity, in particular.

In general, patient ages range today between 20 and 60, with most in their 30s to 50s.

"We are clearly seeing less older people with COVID admitted to the hospital," Apostolakos said, attributing that to higher rates of vaccination among seniors.

The arrival of COVID variants locally does not change treatments. But, much like vaccine hesitancy, hospitals are seeing people refuse monoclonal antibodies (pre-hospitalization) and anti-inflammatory treatments that have received emergency authorization. Those require a consent form, he said, "and some are hesitant to do that because they feel it is experimental."

Monroe County has reported 1,226 COVID deaths, to date. That grim tally crossed the milestone of 1,000 back on Feb. 5 — a difference of 226 lives and 80 days. 

Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza addressed rising COVID cases and vaccinations during a Thursday, April 8, 2021, briefing.