Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh joined Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon at the daily COVID-19 briefing to discuss some of the findings from the Economic Resilience Task Force. The Task Force is focused on how Syracuse and Onondaga County will slowly resume economic activity following weeks of shut down.
Walsh said there are 35 total recommendations that fall under four areas of focus. These are: Optimizing existing supports, Assistance to employers to reopen safely, Policy recommendations, Resilience based on unique strengths.
“Every community in the United States is looking towards this path of recovery,” said Walsh. “What are those areas that we have excelled in and invested in prior to this crisis and will continue to after. Things like unmanned aerial systems, the Syracuse Surge Initiative.”
Walsh said the 35 recommendations will be made public in the next few days. New York State could potentially cut operational funding to local governments as the financial toll of the pandemic is fully assessed. However, Walsh said the state funding for the proposed STEAM school will not be affected.
“The funding for the STEAM school, the state funding, comes in the form of debt service over a long period of time. So it doesn’t require a big pot of upfront money,” said Walsh. “The county has offered from very early on in the process to advance the upfront financing of the school. We are continuing to work in that direction."
While there may not be a threat to the STEAM school, Walsh said depending on final budget cuts, the Syracuse City School District could stand to lose up to $80 million, which he said means “rethinking a lot.”
The Mayor also used the opportunity to call for federal aid to local governments in the next stimulus bill.
“We provide those basic essential services that we’ve talked so much about in recent,” said Walsh. “Think about where we would be as a community if the county was not in the position to fund the health department the way they need to. That’s what’s on the line here.”
He said Representative Katko and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer have all pushed for this funding as well, but it has not been a priority across the country. He’s hopeful there will be some funding in a future assistance package.
COMMUNITY SPREAD VS PROACTIVE TESTING
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon announced 29 new positive cases of COVID-19 Thursday, but he said it’s not entirely representative of the degree of community spread. Sixteen of the cases were found through proactive testing of the County’s senior communities, and one case was a contact of those.
“These cases most likely never would have been caught or reported if we weren’t doing what we’re doing.” said McMahon. “These cases are concentrated in certain buildings. So when we look at our overall community’s fight with the virus, what we try to demonstrate is community spread...We need to separate that from where we have individual hotspots in the community.”
The county is awaiting results from 383 tests that were done at the Walmart testing site in East Syracuse. McMahon said most of those were proactive tests of nursing home employees.