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McMahon Says Residents Need to Adjust to "Seasonal Shift" in Coronavirus to Prevent Spike in Cases

Scott Willis

COVID-19 contact tracers are very busy in Onondaga County after more than 100 new positive cases over the past two days.  Sixty-one were reported Wednesday, and County Executive Ryan McMahon announced another 46 Thursday.  A man in his 80’s with underlying medical conditions is the latest fatality. Hospitalizations are up to 25, with nine in intensive care.  McMahon says most of the virus activity can be attributed to community spread.

“The pressure we’re feeling now -and we’re probably going to feel this pressure through the rest of the fall and the wintertime- isn’t because of school, and it’s not because of college kids at this point. The pressure we’re feeling now is because the virus is in the community again, and we need to reengage and work on starving the virus.”

Meanwhile, he says the higher numbers are likely the new normal unless residents do their part.

“I don’t think we’re in a wave -a second wave- I think we are in a seasonal shift and we need to modify some of our behavior that’s gotten lax to address this seasonal shift. And if we can do that, I still think we’ll have more numbers than we had over the summer, but we won’t be having 50 a day.”

Instead, he hopes we can get down to 20 or 30 as long as people stay home from work and other public places if they have even mild symptoms.  That would make the pandemic more manageable for the county’s reduced staff.

“The virus has impacted us. We’re 500 people short compared to where we were at the same time last year. So, our ability to do this by ourselves is more of a challenge: that gets into your whole stimulus conversation. The ability to fight the virus in real time is where the challenge is going to be.”

For that reason, McMahon says they’re being far more conservative with quarantining children if they’ve been exposed at school, and that’s generating complaints from parents.  He says the extra caution reduces chances of additional spread while also giving tracers time to assess the level of exposure.  McMahon is quick to add that virus spread at schools remains low and contained, and onsite asymptomatic testing this week turned up negative results. 

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