Here we are, the week of Christmas 2020. This is not my usual season's greeting column with best wishes for abundant family time and holiday traditions. We remain in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic, and community spread continues to rise with the post-Thanksgiving surge pushing right into our final weeks of December. We face predictions for yet another surge if we do not “stay small and safe” in the coming days. The good news is vaccines are arriving in all areas of the country including Monroe County. Vaccinations are underway and we are beginning to feel some optimism for getting out of this pandemic.
County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza reminds us that although it feels like we are in the home stretch, we are in the very early days of vaccinations and cannot let up on safe practices now. He has also stressed that being vaccinated does not give a license to going without a mask—the vaccine helps protect a person from becoming ill if exposed, it does not prevent transmission. Getting to the point of community protection is a long way off and we all need to continue to wear masks, practice hygiene, and resist the desire to gather and celebrate.
To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine go to https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/
So although our holiday season may feel less than traditional, we can make it feel more generous by making choices to protect others, especially front-line medical workers who are left dealing with the consequences of COVID-19. We’ve all seen exhausted doctors, nurses, and other caregivers in the news imploring the public to take this pandemic seriously. They share heartbreaking stories of helping patients and families say goodbye over video and remind us that any one of us could become one of their patients. As we await mass vaccine distribution, they simply ask us to make a respectful commitment to mask-wearing, hand washing and keeping our distance from others. Health officials have repeatedly told us the majority of the spread happens right in people’s homes.
Although this continues to be an unwelcome message to many who “just want the holidays to be normal,” flexibility and respect for others this holiday season is an investment in seeing loved ones at next year’s celebrations.
If you want to be tested, Monroe County is providing free, rapid COVID-19 tests during the month of December for residents who are asymptomatic. Residents experiencing symptoms should contact their healthcare provider or call the Monroe County COVID Hotline at 753-5555. Follow this link to find a location and register https://www.monroecounty.gov/healthcalls/register .
On behalf of Town employees and the Town Board, I wish you a safe, small, and sensible holiday season. Hopefully this will be the last major holiday season to get through under the pandemic. Let’s all do our part to keep our community and healthcare workers and their families safe: wear a mask, practice physical distancing, help stop the spread to save lives.
Be safe and be well!
Penfield Supervisor R. Anthony (Tony) LaFountain