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'Knucklehead Central': McMahon Says Large Gathering By SU Students Will Not Be Tolerated

Katie Zilcosky

Social media videos surfaced early Thursday morning of a large group of Syracuse University freshmen gathering on the campus’s quad, disobeying the University’s social distancing and mask requirements.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said those students put the possibility of in-person classes during the semester and the safety of the community at risk with their actions.

“You have been burdened like the rest of us with becoming a freshman during the 100-year pandemic,” said McMahon. “You have the opportunity like the rest of us to take on this virus and make history with all of us, and to build on the success we’ve had in our community. And to build on the success that your university has gone through with getting you back to campus so you can have these experiences.”

The infection rate locally has been under 1% for over 5 weeks now, and all SU students arriving to campus have to test negative for COVID-19 before returning. McMahon said the fact that all students were recently tested reduces the possibility the gathering will cause a cluster. He said the County will work with SU administration if large gatherings become an issue throughout the semester.

Syracuse University Vice Chancellor J. Michael Haynie said in a statement that the incident is being investigated.

But Syracuse University is not the only institution preparing for the start of classes. School districts across Onondaga County are preparing to hold classes in the near future, too. Onondaga County will offer testing to school staff at different sites across the county, which McMahon says is the best way to keep everyone safe.

“The faculty wants to get tested. 96% of our cases have been adults. We know that,” said McMahon. “Doesn’t mean kids don’t have it. Doesn’t mean kids can’t get it. Doesn’t mean kids can’t spread it. But we know that the adults have been impacted by it more.”

The first three sites will be set up next week in Lafayette, Tully, and Jamesville-Dewitt, and more districts will have test sites set up in the coming weeks. Onondaga County will also offer to test students for districts closer to when they would start school.

Katie Zilcosky is WAER’s All Things Considered host and features reporter. She also co-hosts WAER’s public affairs show Syracuse Speaks. As a reporter, she focuses on technology, poverty, and identity.