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Health & Medicine

Onondaga County Health Department Debates Decreasing Desk Distancing In Schools

Chad Davis
Wikimedia Commons

Onondaga County’s health department is still deciding whether or not to issue guidance decreasing the recommended distance between students’ desks from 6 feet. The county’s positivity rate dipped below one percent Thursday, and asymptomatic testing in schools returned zero positive tests.

County Executive Ryan McMahon said a potential change in guidance is not unreasonable at this time.

“The data’s the data. 0.9 [percent] seven-day average,” said McMahon. “We weren’t talking about this when our seven-day average was 8.6 [percent]. So let’s let the data tell the true picture, and that’s what we’ve been doing this whole pandemic.”

McMahon said he has heard from district leaders that a decreased distance between desks would allow for more in-person learning, but also acknowledged the concerns of teachers unions. However, McMahon emphasized that being out of the classroom for so long is having negative impacts on children. He cites rising rates of child abuse and suicide as reasons to prioritize safely reopening schools.

“I want to see more in-person learning because we are dealing with the consequences across many different lanes here. And we’re really very close to vaccinating this entire class of professional workers within our education system,” said McMahon.

Educators will be among the groups that will be vaccinated Monday, along with those who have developmental disabilities and people with comorbidities. First dose vaccinations at the OnCenter will open to the eligible public next week. McMahon said the county should receive close to 18 hundred doses. Approximately 91-thousand Onondaga County residents have received the first dose of the vaccine.