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Health & Medicine

Onondaga County Schools Can Reduce Distance Between Desks, With Conditions

Onondaga County Executive's Office

Onondaga County updated school district guidance Thursday that allows districts to decrease the amount of distance between student’s desks. The change is an attempt to get more children back into schools.


County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta said after she and her team examined available data, it was clear that transmission rates among children in school were no different than transmission rates among children doing remote learning.

“And I did not take it lightly. It’s not that. I had to think through it, the process, quite a bit,” said Dr. Gupta. “Look at the evidence and say ‘Do I feel comfortable at this point that can you go forward?’ And we can rescind it. If something, at any point, we see any problem.”

To adopt the policy recommendation, school districts must maintain current public health measures such as face masks, health screenings, and asymptomatic testing in buildings. Schools will also need to install physical barriers between student desks, such as plexiglass. County Executive Ryan McMahon said the county will pay for partitions for any school that needs them. However, ordering partitions and implementing this policy will take time.

“It can’t happen tomorrow. One, we're going to order partitions That will take a little bit of time for them to get here. But also, we want to do this right. So by doing it right, you need to work through the stakeholders, address every concern you can,” said McMahon.

The updated guidance comes as Onondaga County experiences low, stabilized coronavirus transmission rates and an increased number of vaccinated adults. McMahon said 28% of adults in the county are vaccinated, and some eligible groups are close to full vaccination. 

“We’ve been working with educators. We’ve been reserving slots. This week, we reserved a certain number of slots, and we would have given educators more slots. We were nott able to fill the spots. So we think we're doing really well, to the point where we may be getting to capacity,” said McMahon.

McMahon said he expects eligibility to open up further in the coming weeks. The county received an increase in vaccine allotment this past week, and 1,000 doses of the recently approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine. McMahon said the single-dose shot will be used for homebound community members. Restaurant workers, hotel employees and uber drivers are now eligible to receive a shot at county locations as well as the state run facility at the fairgrounds.


The addition of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine and increased supply to Onondaga County from the state has made getting a vaccine appointment for those eligible much easier.  

  • The vaccination site at the New York State Fairgrounds has 3,500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The appointments for this dose are offered between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. in an effort to increase inoculations at New York’s mass vaccination sites. Those eligible within Phases 1A and 1B can register for an appointment here. 
  • Onondaga County still has appointments open at its vaccine clinics at the OnCenter. A clinic will be held for those who registered with the OnList. A confirmation email will be sent if you are selected from OnList. Hotel employees, restaurant workers, and Uber drivers are all now able to get a vaccine at the county site. The eligible public can register for an appointment on the county website.
  • Additionally, a pop-up clinic will be held in Syracuse this week to bring the vaccine to Central New York’s New American community. The Tucker Missionary Baptist Church on Oakwood Avenue will host a clinic Friday, March 5th from noon to 3 p.m. Pre-registration is not required for this, but the clinic is limited to those eligible in the immediate community.