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Health & Medicine

Coronavirus Update: Syracuse St. Patrick's Parade Cancelled; OCC to Begin Distance Learning

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Syracuse’s St Patrick’s Day Parade is the latest casualty of the Coronavirus, as city and county officials deemed it too risky in their efforts to contain possible spread of the infection.  Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon says a data-driven approach was used to make the decision. 

He cited two new cases of Covid 19, the disease that results from the virus infection, in Albany County and another in Monroe County, both short drives from Syracuse.  He also referred to medical data that shows respiratory illness is not dropping, like it normally does this time of year.  They termed the parade ‘postponed’ from its planned date this Saturday, but did not say if there were any plans to reschedule. 

County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta says the main focus is to do everything possible to limit the spread.  There are currently no positive cases confirmed in the county, though 21 people remain in quarantine as their symptoms are watched. 

We are preparing to make sure it takes as long to have that first case … in our community.  And if it does come, how can we reduce the transmission of infection.  … we are working with Upstate, St. Joe’s, Crouse, the VA (medical center), and primary care providers … schools and everywhere.  We are working together in prevention mode, but at the same time ready to (do) surveillance, detection, and ready to put (into effect) isolation and quarantine.”

Officials are asking people not to go directly to an emergency room, primary care doctor or urgent care center, if you have symptoms that could indicate corona virus.  McMahon notes people are better off calling, to get advice over the phone about whether they should come in for a test.

There are many, many other reasons why people area going to hospitals and emergency rooms. That’s why it is so critical that you don’t just show up if you have flu-like symptoms.  You need to call your primary care provider or you need to call urgent care … to really having a coordinated path to getting the treatment you need.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Ben Walsh says there are currently no changes to city services.  He notes all public meetings are available live or recorded on YouTube, so people can watch without having to come in person.  He adds they have updated cleaning practices for all city buildings and are investigating which employees might be able to work remotely. 

McMahon called on local residents to consider local businesses.  Knowing that certain types of businesses will suffer more from lack of public events and gatherings, he asked that people support restaurants and other places if they can.  He also urged all businesses to consider sick and time-off policies to make sure employees can stay home if they’re ill, while not having their jobs or incomes threatened. 

OCC MOVES TO DISTANCE LEARNING MARCH 23

The shift comes in conjunction with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's announcement to suspend classroom instruction in the SUNY system.  OCC is on spring break the week of Mar. 16, and the plan is to re-open classroom learning April 13.  

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OCC provided additional related policies and precautions in a press release:

  • Residence Hall students will be allowed to return to residence halls March 22. Disinfectant supplies will be available in each living area.
  • Computer facilities will be available on campus for students. Social distancing best practices will be in effect. Students will be separated by 6-foot buffers while using computers. Disinfectant supplies will be available at each computer along with instructional signage regarding proper usage.
  • Coulter Library and the Learning Center tutoring center will remain open but any meetings will only happen in small groups.
  • All College athletics teams’ practices and games prior to April 13 will be suspended.
  • Any gatherings on the OCC campus of more than 50 people prior to April 13 will be cancelled and every effort will be made to reschedule.

OCC urges all students, faculty, and employees double check all of their emergency contact information in College systems and make sure it is up to date.  All members of the campus community should routinely check their College email. In the event of a significant change in conditions we want to be able to contact everyone in a timely fashion.
OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill says they will continue to serve their students.

"Our mission of bettering students’ lives through higher education remains the same. The way in which we will do so is changing temporarily.  I know our entire campus community is ready for this challenge and will pull together to serve students to the best of our abilities.” 

SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY SUSPENDS ACADEMIC PROGRAMS IN EUROPE

SU Abroad is immediately suspending operations at centers in London and Strasbourg in France, and is helping students and their families to return to the US.  President Trump's new restrictions on travel between Europe and the US does not affect US residents.  In a message to the university community, Vice Chancellor Mike Haynie says like students on main campus, these students are being directed not to return to campus until at least Mar. 30.  

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Meanwhile, students on the Syracuse campus are being urged to depart at the earliest opportunity.  Officials are imploring students to plan accordingly for a return date of March 30 at the earliest.  

For those who can't leave campus for spring break, some dining centers, libraries, and residence hall fitness centers will remain open.  Any student remaining on campus and in University housing over break must register with the Office of Student Living immediately.

SU is also making provisions available for students who can't afford a laptop for remote learning, as well as internet connections.

The university is continuing to regularly update Syracuse.edu/coronavirus with answers to frequently asked questions, travel guidance, policy decisions, resources, and services. 

NYS FAIR CLOSES GROUNDS

Fair Director Troy Waffner says in a statement that all events at the fairgrounds have been canceled through the end of March.  This follows Gov. Cuomo's guidance to avoid gatherings of more than 500 people in the effort to suppress the spread of COVID-19.  Waffner says they're working with promoters to secure alternate dates when possible, and providing refunds of deposits.  He adds that their first priority, though, is to safeguard the health of everyone who visits the fairgrounds.  

SEN. SCHUMER PUSHES FEDERAL MEDICAL RELIEF FOR NY

Sen. Chuck Schumer wants to trigger emergency legislative action he authored that was last used during the 2009 financial crisis to inject billions of dollars to New York and other states on the front lines of the coronavirus.  This is separate from the $8.3 billion package he negotiated last week.  

Schumer has worked with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to include FMAP, or federal medical assistance percentage relief, in the pending house bill, and he's pushing Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to take up the legislative package.  

"New York and local counties, like Westchester, are the coronavirus epicenter in the U.S. and are fighting like hell to keep this virus contained, even while sustaining significant healthcare-related costs," Schumer said in a release.  "They need all the help the federal government can offer to sustain and win this battle and there is no other way that is as effective and efficient to do this than through Medicaid reimbursement funds."

Schumer explained that the Medicaid program is jointly funded by the federal government and the states. FMAP is a matching rate enacted in 1965 that determines the federal funding share for state Medicaid programs. The federal government matches state funds spent on Medicaid, based on the state’s FMAP, which varies by state. For example, New York’s FMAP is 50%. This means that for every dollar spent on Medicaid in New York, New York’s share of the cost is fifty cents (this fifty cents, in turn, is split between the State and Counties and localities), while the federal government chips in the other fifty cents. Only some states have FMAPs of 50 percent and New York is one—Schumer wants to increase the 50 percent and deliver more federal dollars immediately.