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Onondaga County Weighs Mitigation Measures, Watches Nursing Home Clusters As High COVID-19 Infection Rates Persist

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Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon gives a COVID update Oct. 8, 2021.

Onondaga County will consider additional COVID-19 mitigation measures if case numbers don’t flatten out soon. But County executive Ryan McMahon wouldn’t say what they might do. Central New York has one of the higher 7-day positive rates in the state, and Governor Hochul has hinted she may take action. McMahon explains that even entire countries with severe restrictions haven’t been able to keep numbers down.

“We’re looking at a couple things we can do if this doesn’t flatten out. We’ll probably give it a little bit more time because the weather is giving us a little more time. Certainly we need this thing flattened going into the indoor season.”

McMahon says one third of cases are from home exposure, which are virtually unpreventable. Otherwise, he says mask mandates are already in place at congregant settings like schools and day cares, but they’re difficult to enforce. McMahon says he’s very concerned about clusters of cases at two nursing homes, which require masks and have among the highest vaccination rates for residents and staff. The state is also investigating. He worries about the implications for staffing at the facilities and for home care.

Right now the nursing homes, from my understanding, are not accepting a lot of new residents because of the challenges they have. That puts a lot of pressure on your home care ecosystem and infrastructure. We’re very much watching this, and very much trying to get in front of what that challenge could look like.”

McMahon says the health care workforce is stretched thin and fatigued, limiting options for families. Meanwhile, some school districts are struggling with staff shortages of their own due to COVID quarantines and isolation. A Liverpool school had to switch to remote learning for that reason. Otherwise, McMahon says students should remain in the classroom.

“If people need to go remote for a period of time because they don’t have enough teachers, that makes sense. To suggest now, when active cases are 15 to 20 percent of our peak, when we had kids in school, that [they go remote] as a risk-based approach, we strongly disagree. The data don’t merit that.”

He says the expected emergency approval of the Pfizer vaccine for 5 to 11 year olds, hopefully around Halloween, should bring cases down. So should booster shots. The county is once again partnering with Kinney Drugs for a booster clinic on Thursday, Oct. 14 from 9 to 4 at the Oncenter. Registration is required at ongov.net.