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School Coronavirus Testing, Gathering Limits Begin This Week In Onondaga County

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WAER News

New rules for Onondaga County’s yellow zone went into effect this week, and new statewide regulations will start at the week’s end. The consistent rise in coronavirus cases locally and across New York prompted state government to instate the new limits on gatherings and curfews for restaurants, bars and gyms.

As part of the yellow zone designation, schools within the noted area need to test at least 20% of students and staff per week. County Executive Ryan McMahon said keeping students in school is now the county’s priority.

“Parent and teachers, I heard teachers as well, want to stay in-person learning," said McMahon. "And so, that is something that, if the commitment was there from the districts, we’ve made our commitments that we will re-arrange the dock and what we do, and focus in on that being our priority.”

Testing will start with elementary schools, then move to middle schools, and finally high schools. McMahon said this strategy is to keep continuity of childcare across the area. The first elementary school was tested Thursday, and the rest of the testing will be conducted next week. 

McMahon was clear that the county’s current focus is maintaining in-person learning. As for new rules regarding limits on gatherings in private residences, his office won’t be in charge of direct enforcement.

“Is the county COVID task force that has been doing enforcement at businesses gonna be out knocking on doors at people’s homes on Thanksgiving, the answer is no," said McMahon. "Our people aren’t equip to do that? We’re not gonna put our people in potentially situations where it’s at harm’s way. The local police department have to enforce the social gatherings like that.”

Gatherings have been a leading cause of the rise in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, with McMahon saying the data we’re seeing now is related in part to Halloween parties. The county reported 178 new cases of the virus on Thursday.