Rochester, NY Mayor Lovely Warren is taking on the COVID-19 pandemic by the horns and keeping her citizens safe.
Serving as mayor of New York State’s third most populous city since 2014, Warren is the first woman, the youngest person and the second African American to serve as mayor of the Upstate city, which has a population of over 210,000.
A native of Rochester, Warren graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City and earned her law degree from Albany Law School. She began her career as a legislative assistant and chief of staff to Assemblyman David F. Gantt and as a clerk for Rochester City Court Judge Teresa Johnson.
Warren was first elected to the Rochester City Council in 2007 and would go on to become council president. She is currently in her second term as mayor.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Monroe County, where Rochester is located, has seen around 2,100 confirmed coronavirus cases. The city is in one of the six regions in New York State that met all seven metrics required to begin Phase 1 on of the state’s regional phased reopening plan. This means retail business owners are permitted to do curbside and in-store pickup and residential and commercial construction can resume with guidelines.
“We did not see the infection rate that other communities across the state had seen,” Warren said during a recent interview on the Amsterdam News Podcast. “The governor and his team felt that it was time that we start to test reopening. One of the things that we wanted to make sure and pay attention to was the race and ethnicity data. Even though our death rates are on par with our population, we did see that people of color were being hospitalized or in ICU at larger numbers.”
In response to the high number of Blacks being infected by COVID-19 in Rochester, her administration put together a social distancing campaign targeted at the Black and Latino community called the “Protect Your Circle” initiative. Local social media influencers have been tapped to spread the word about the initiative.
“We believe that people have been listening,” Warren said. “People have been socially distancing and wearing a mask. We’re hopeful and prayerful that our numbers will continue to remain consistent and that our curve has flattened and continue to deliver a message to our community.”
On March 16, Warren declared a state of emergency in the City of Rochester and said that she implemented social distancing early on, which she attributes to the slow spreading of COVID-19.
“When we started seeing what happened in New York City, we shut down, we started doing things proactively,” she said. “One of the things that concerns me is that it’s been really cold up here lately so a lot of people have been inside. As the weather warms up I want to make sure our community still understands that we are at Phase 1 of reopening and that the virus is still alive and well in our community.”
One of Warren’s greatest accomplishments during the COVID-19 pandemic is the mailing of 480,000 masks to 96,000 households in Rochester. Each household received five masks along with information regarding community resources to help people impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The packet also included information encouraging residents to complete the 2020 Census. The masks were given to the city by Monroe County Executive Adam Bello.
“Many people have transportation challenges,” Warren said. “I have a population that’s elderly, I have a population that’s disabled, I have a population that has immune deficiencies and we wanted to make sure that everyone had equal access to opportunity. We felt it was best that everyone gets a mask. It was worth it. If we’re going to tell people to wear masks in public, then we need to make sure everyone has access to masks.”
Warren says one the best ways to beat coronavirus is through giving proper information and making residents aware as things evolve going forward.
“It’s very important that the community get an understanding of what’s happening and we continue to lift each other up together to make the change that we want to see happen in our communities,” she said.