ROCHESTER, N.Y. — During a news conference on Wednesday in Rochester, New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin announced the state would be sending 13 National Guard teams to Monroe County to help with hospital staffing and capacity as the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations continues to climb locally.

Benjamin made the announcement alongside County Executive Adam Bello who said 624 new cases of COVID-19 are being reported in the county as of Wednesday. The seven-day average positivity rate for the county is 8.7%

Both the lieutenant governor and county executive again encouraged everyone to get vaccinated and Benjamin says he has been traveling around the state specifically in an effort to encourage parents to vaccinate their children.

According to Bello, of the total number of people hospitalized in Monroe County with COVID-19, 65% of them are unvaccinated. He said 80% of those in the ICU are unvaccinated and 82% of those on a ventilator with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

Bello announced on Tuesday that the county is now under a state of emergency because of rising COVID-19 hospitalizations. Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a similar state of emergency for all of New York last Friday.

“This is clearly what’s been identified is our hospitals is the number one thing every week, it’s the nursing homes," Bello said. "That’s really how we free up those acute care beds.”

The National Guard will set up shop at Monroe Community Hospital where there are many beds, but not enough staff.

The 26 National Guard members being deployed to Monroe County represent the largest group of any that is being deployed across the state so far, according to Lt. Gov. Benjamin.

“The Department of Health working in conjunction with the hospital systems here have determined that we have a big need here," Benjamin said. "Particularly with your two big systems there’s a lot of need so we are sending the most here and we are scaling across the state where the needs are the most.”

“We’ve been talking about this from the beginning, every region, every county, this is why the county approach is correct that we’re taking here," Bello said. "Every region, every county’s going to have a different need, a different response. We identified this as an area and a need here some time ago. We’ve been having this conversation, we raised this with the state. I’m just delighted they responded.”

Benjamin says additional National Guard members are being considered for deployment to Monroe County depending on whether they are needed. He says officials are working to have non-essential and elective surgeries postponed while also moving patients who do not need to be in the hospital to nursing homes. All of this will be happening while the state continues to work with the county and hospital systems to monitor the situation constantly and adjust as needed.