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A Bright Spot in Onondaga County COVID Testing, Vaccinations & Calls for Easing Restrictions

Onondaga County officials shared some promising signs in COVID testing and vaccinations in a briefing Monday.  The area marks the one year anniversary of the first local case, and living through the global pandemic.

County Executive Ryan McMahon says the positive COVID testing rate is at 0.7% for the past week and has remained below 1.0-percent for more than a month. 

“We, only in the summertime, for a day or two, our seven-day average was below 0.7%.  So (it’s) really, really good that our community is where it is.  Our case loads have dropped they were between 50 and 100 … now it’s in that forty and eighty range.  Today we have 61 new cases.”

He adds more than 35% of the adult population has received at least one dose of the vaccine and appointments are getting easier to obtain. Unfortunately, over the last day there have been two more deaths. One of the deaths was a man in his nineties and the other, a nursing home resident for whom there was no detail released. 

McMahon is lobbying the state to reduce the age for vaccine eligibility to fifty years old. He also wants to include all farm workers and food-security workers, a particular need in this area.

“There’s a little upstate-downstate divide.  The taxi drivers, for example, a very big issue downstate.  … but when you talk about our Ag Economy upstate, and food security for the whole state, Our Ag workers need to get vaccinated.  Pretty critical, We all eat.”

Also on the vaccine front, the county is focusing on finding home-bound seniors to distribute the vaccine to in their homes.  For others, McMahon expects more vaccine appointments to open up later this week. 

The county is further trying to get more kids back into schools. McMahon says they’re taking steps to integrate student back to in-person learning with the purchase of plexiglass partitions. He considers it safe because there’s no data to suggest the virus is spreading in schools.

"The positivity rates of kids who are remote (versus) in-person learning is the exact same essentially. We are happy that it looks like we will be getting partitions in this week to get out to some districts. It looks like a lot of districts will be modifying their plans the ast week of March and first week of April after the break."

There is potential for things to return closer to normal, but members of the community are still urged to remain vigilant in following CDC guidelines.


McMahon confirmed Onondaga County did not get any phone call from the Cuomo administration or his vaccine program head.  Other counties suggested such calls were intimidating and worried vaccine supply could be limited.  But McMahon says he’s seen no such evidence.  He wondered if frustration over not having local control might be fueling animosity.  For his part, McMahon would like to be able to lift restrictions on restaurants and bars having close at 11:00.  He wondered with a 9:40 Syracuse basketball game in the NCAA tournament Friday, would bars have to kick fans out at halftime, or “are we setting ourselves up for failure.”