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COVID-19 Update: Oneida County Confirms First Case; Syracuse Police Adjust Response Protocol

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The first case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in Oneida County.  The individual had recently traveled abroad and has been in quarantine at home since March 13.  The county is testing over 30 others and awaiting those results. 

There have been no new confirmed cases of the virus in Onondaga County since Monday.  


The COVID-19 outbreak means all Syracuse hospitals are on a no-visitor policy for adult inpatients, with some exceptions.  Upstate University Hospital released these restrictions. Crouse and St. Joseph's Health Center have taken similar measures:

  • No visitors for adult inpatients, except in special circumstances such as end-of-life care and critically ill patients. 
  • Surgical and ambulatory patients will be allowed one healthy companion. 
  • Only parents/guardians will be permitted to visit pediatric patients.
  • Only at the discretion of the attending physician and/or the administrative supervisor will other visitors be permitted.
  • Visitors experiencing cough, sore throat, fever, or any other flu-like symptoms are not permitted
  • Children under the age of 18 are restricted from visiting. 
  • Visitors with symptoms will not be permitted to enter the Emergency Department unless they are the only parent, guardian or healthcare proxy of the patient.


Destiny USA has reduced its operating hours due to the closures of restaurants, theaters, and other venues.  The mall will be open from 11 to 7 Monday through Saturday and 11 to 5 Sunday.  The Museum of Science and Technology is closed until at least April 1, as is the Onondaga Historical Association until further notice.


The Syracuse Police Department is changing the way it responds to calls for service to protect officers and the public from COVID-19.  SPD says it won’t respond to non-emergency complaints, but callers will be directed to Tele-serve, or E-serve, the phone and online based reporting system.  Officers may also be contacting callers via phone.  911 callers should meet with officers outside the residence.  The Tele-serve number is 442-5207.   


In an effort to slow the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh announced the closure of City buildings to public access effective Tuesday, Mar. 17. The Mayor also introduced plans to continue the delivery of essential City services while moving employees supporting non-essential services to remote work.

Consistent with information provided by Governor Cuomo earlier today regarding reducing on-site government workforces, the City will transition employees involved in non-essential services to remote work as soon as possible,” Mayor Walsh said in a release. “We are also taking steps to ensure safe, proper staffing for the continued delivery of a wide range of essential services.”

Core essential services that will continue to operate, as usual, are:  Police, Fire, Sanitation, Sewer, Water, as well as Snow and Ice. Multiple other essential services, including CityLine and Constituent Services, Engineering, Human Resources, Information Technology, Law, Payments, Payroll, Permit, Street Repair and Transportation, will continue but with modified staffing and service capabilities.  The City’s outdoor parks will remain open, however, indoor Parks and Recreation facilities and all recreation programming are being suspended.

With the closure of City facilities to public access, constituents are asked to make contact with departments for City services, business, or legal matters by phone, email, or postal mail.  A directory of City departments and functions, with contact information, is available at

Many City services can be delivered online, via email or over the phone and through the mail.  Any service, business or legal matter to be conducted in person will be completed by appointment only.

Public meetings conducted in the Common Council Chambers in Syracuse City Hall will be conducted online with conference call access beginning Monday, Mar. 16. These bodies are: Syracuse Common Council, Citizen Review Board, Syracuse Landmark Preservation Board, Syracuse Planning Commission, Joint School Construction Board, Syracuse Industrial Development Agency, and the Board of Zoning Appeals. Meetings can be viewed on the City of Syracuse YouTube channel.

Members of the public can also report non-emergency issues through CityLine at, emailing, by calling (315) 448-2489 (CITY) or tweeting to @SYRCityline.


County Executive McMahon announced a new phone number that will be dedicated solely to providing senior citizens nutrition information and resources in light of the COVID- 19 virus. The number is 315-218-1987.

“This is a time for us to come together as a community and take care of each other. This includes, in particular, our local senior citizens who are most susceptible to contracting the COVID-19 virus,” McMahon said in a release.  “I am very proud of entire team for coming together to get this line up and running so our local seniors can have a dedicated, trustworthy source to sign-up for meals and nutritional information.”

Seniors, in particular, are especially vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 and have been asked to stay home and practice social distancing. This can create challenges for many seniors when it comes to accessing food and high quality, nutritious meals. As a result, beginning Tuesday, seniors can call (315) 218- 1987 to be included on the County’s listing for meal delivery or pickup. Seniors who already receive their meals through Meals on Wheels are already on the list and do not need to call.

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