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Onondaga County Works With School Districts on Testing, Mitigation Measures

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Onondaga County and school districts are working on ways to keep the COVID-19 infection rate low while also getting as many children back into school buildings as possible this fall. 

In his Monday briefing, county executive Ryan McMahon says he’s talked to most superintendents who are on board with a testing plan.

"We would test all of the employees.  Then, with capacity, we'd look at some of the high school kids who are more socially active.  Then we'd come up with a strategy with the health department sampling testing in [elementary] classrooms during the year."

McMahon says that’s on top of the usual protective measures of masks, social distancing, and hand sanitizer.  The county’s infection rate is less than one percent, which he says is low enough to safely hold classroom learning.  McMahon says children have had a very low infection rate to begin with.

"The percentage of elementary-age kids who have gotten it out of our 3,373 cases I believe is under one percent.  If you trace back how they got this virus, it was basically from mom and dad.  That does not mean that they can't get it from another kids.  That doesn't mean that they can't spread it."

McMahon says they’re using local data to guide their decisions, not isolated cases from other states.  

GOV. CUOMO SAYS DISTRICTS NEED TO CONVINCE PARENTS

By Karen DeWitt, Capitol Correspondent

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he will announce later this week on what terms that schools can reopen during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But he put the responsibility for the details back on schools Monday, saying they need to better respond to the concerns of parents.

The state’s 700 school districts were to have submitted their plans on July 31. Cuomo says some of those he’s seen are “indecipherable”, while others are incomplete. The governor says he will issue his decision on whether schools can partially or fully reopen later this week, based on data about the rate of the spread of infection in the state.  He says ultimately, though the schools will need to win the trust of  parents who will send their children to the schools.

I don’t care what any bureaucrat says,” said Cuomo. “If they don’t have a good plan for reopening, no kids are going to come and no teaches are going to come.”

The governor says schools should immediately hold virtual meetings with parents, to make sure their concerns are addressed.

Cuomo says he won’t OK a school re open plan that isn’t safe. 

The governor was particularly critical of New York City’s reopening plan, which would offer a combination of remote and  in-classroom learning, and shutter schools if the  rate of transmission of the virus reaches over 3%. 

Cuomo has long feuded with New York City’s mayor, Bill deBlasio.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at srwillis@syr.edu.