A Rochester man who recently traveled to Italy became Monroe County's first case of the coronavirus disease.
Monroe County officials made the announcement of the positive test for COVID-19 on Wednesday night. At a Thursday morning press conference, officials said that Rochester's St. Patrick's Day parade had been canceled while encouraging that planned gatherings of more than 50 people be "reconsidered."
"We are prepared for the worst but we are praying for the best," Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said. "We are working to make sure the public has right information and that they are safe."
The individual who tested positive for COVID-19 is a man who lives in Rochester who traveled from Rome to New York City's JFK airport on Tuesday, after which he traveled to Rochester via ground transportation, officials said.
Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza and other officials lauded the man for self-isolating himself and for contacting the county health department Tuesday to be tested. The man is in "involuntary isolation" at home and is recovering well, officials said, and they have been in touch with his close contacts and are monitoring them for symptoms.
"Although the risk to our community remains relatively low at this time, and we still have only one individual under isolation, we must also acknowledge that now is a time to relook at" mass gatherings, said Mendoza, before addressing the cancellation of Rochester's St. Patrick's Day parade. "I believe that the risk now exceeds the benefit of proceeding with this parade."
Mendoza said that all Monroe County gatherings of more than 50 people be "reconsidered."
"This is something that we are encouraging out of an abundance of caution," he said at a press conference that included addresses by Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, Warren and several local medical leaders as well as state official Vincent Espinosa.
"My approach is encouragement and education," Mendoza said. "We want people to take reasonable precautions. Gatherings are risky."
At same time, he added "there is no reason to be fearful" from going out in the community, including restaurants and fitness facilities, for instance, if precautions are taken.
Officials stressed that citizens wash their hands, avoid touching their face, practice safe social distancing, display respiratory etiquette such as coughing into one's elbow, disinfect surfaces and take other precautions.
Mendoza said that individuals who feel sick should contact their primary physician and not to go to the emergency room unless they have an emergency condition.
He also urged nursing homes to reevaluate and consider limiting their visitor policies, and for hospitals and primary care centers to relook at patient access and take appropriate precautions so that patients at risk do not pose additional risk to other patients. He emphasized that employees stay home if they are sick.
Rochester's St. Patrick's Day parade had been scheduled for Saturday. The event was canceled after local leaders had a discussion with parade organizers.
The Monroe County Health Department issued a statement after 11 p.m. Wednesday night that the resident tested positive for COVID-19.
"The patient is in involuntary isolation at home and is recovering nicely," the department stated. "This case is the result of travel from a high-risk area, and not a result of local transmission."
Officials said that the risk of infection remains low in Monroe County.
Officials emphasized in the statement that the case was "NOT related to the students under quarantine at SUNY Brockport." The Brockport campus is hosting State University of New York study abroad students who have returned from areas of concern.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted Wednesday night that the coronavirus test that was performed on the Monroe County resident was administered by the Erie County Department of Health.
Poloncarz also said that four Erie County residents were tested through the Erie County lab on Wednesday, all of which were negative.
This test was performed and confirmed as positive today by the @ECDOH professionals at our @ErieCountyNY Public Health Lab. 4 tests of Erie County residents were also performed by the Lab today and they were negative. https://t.co/IDCTfMb6la
— Mark Poloncarz (@markpoloncarz) March 12, 2020