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Onondaga County Monitors Omicron Variant And Hospital Capacity; Residents Urged To Get Vaccinated or Boosted

covid omicron briefing.jpg
Scott Willis
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon holds a COVID briefing Tuesday.

Onondaga County officials are closely monitoring the spread of the COVID Omicron variant as they continue to manage other cases here at home. Health commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta says we should be concerned, but not panicked. She says the high percentage of unvaccinated people in Africa where it first emerged have enabled the virus to replicate.

"When it replicates, it creates billions of copies in our body. A few of those copies are defective, and some of them die out on their own. But some of them become more virulent or stronger, and that's where we identify them as predominant."

She says there are still many unanswered questions about testing for the variant and the effectiveness of current vaccines, but we should know more in the coming days. Meanwhile, she says prevention is key to creating a barrier against this and any variant, and will keep people out of the hospital.

"Do those common sense public health measures. Masks still work. Testing, tracing, and vaccination. That will all help improve the capacity at the hospital. Not everyone needs to go to the hospital. We can avoid the overcrowding of the emergency departments."

Right now, 136 people are hospitalized with COVID. County Executive Ryan McMahon spoke with leadership at all three hospitals Tuesday, and they report no immediate concerns about capacity. That contrasts with reports from the state showing Upstate’s two campuses and Crouse Hospital among three dozen across the state with less than 10 percent capacity. McMahon says he trusts the information he heard directly from hospital administrators. He says the data don’t indicate the need for mitigation measures just yet.

"We have the tools that we know are most effective. So, what else do you want government to do? I hear it everyday, on the left side and the right side of the political spectrum. One is saying because you don't lock the community down again, you're responsible for the death of the community. The other side is saying don't you dare do that or else there will be a revolt."

McMahon says mitigation is not a silver bullet. He says residents needs to use common sense by staying home if sick, getting a COVID test, and He urges people not to use the ER unless it’s a true emergency, and to instead reach out to a primary care doctor or urgent care center.

Options for vaccination clinics and booster shots can be found here.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at