COVID-19 Update: SUNY Upstate Prepared; Concern for Those with HIV

Mar 23, 2020

Credit CDC

The number of COVID-19 cases in Onondaga County is up just slightly from 45 Sunday to 53 Monday.  County Executive Ryan McMahon says he still wouldn’t be surprised to see larger spikes in positive cases as test results come back. 

Meanwhile, there’s a possible case of public exposure:  anyone who visited M. Ascioti meat market on Milton Ave. in Solvay between 12:30 and 4 PM  on St. Patricks Day to contact the health department or their primary care doctor.  


Officials at SUNY Upstate say they’re prepared in the event numerous people need medical treatment from COVID-19 infections.  The number of cases in Onondaga County is at 53, with only a handful of hospitalizations.  Dr. Steven Thomas is Chief of the Infectious Disease Division at Upstate Medical University.

"In terms of the number of medical/surgical beds available, intensive care unit beds available, staffing, and ventilators, we're green.  We're in good shape by design because we made a lot tough decisions about elective surgical procedures, moving to tele-health, trying to manage people on the outpatient setting virtually."

Thomas says they also have a good supply of personal protective equipment on hand, such as gloves, masks, gowns, and respirators, but that can change quickly depending on demand.  He says they’re working with the county and the state to increase their stockpile, but additional supplies are hard to come by.  Meanwhile County Executive Ryan McMahon continues to plead with parents to not allow neighborhood children to play without being at least six feet apart.  He says he understands the desire for parents to have an outdoor happy hour for mental health reasons.  But…

"We should not see posts on Facebook of adults having happy hour and practicing social distancing, and at the same time, in the backround, having their kids playing together all over each other.  It defeats the purpose.  We might as well have kids in school if that's how we're going to behave."

McMahon the fastest way we get back to normal is by following and implementing social distancing policies. 


The rapid spread of COVID-19 is posing an additional health threat to Central New Yorkers with HIV.   The CNY HIV Care Network held a virtual meeting Thursday evening to provide information and resources to those who might be concerned.  Chair John Wikiera says some HIV positive residents could be vulnerable.

"Sixty percent of the population of HIV positive people in New York is over 50 and living with other health conditions.  So this virus could really create a very big problem for many people across the state."

He says some with HIV might have compromised immune systems and a detectable viral load, while others could be relatively healthy.  Regardless, Wikiera says they already follow the protective measures everyone else has been told to follow because of COVID-19.

"People with HIV are taught that during flu season, stay away from crowds, get your flu shot, washing your hands is always important."

Health concerns aside, Wikiera says he’s worried about the financial impact this could have on those with HIV who have additional medical expenses, and might not have paid sick leave if their employer was forced to close. 

There could be additional virtual meetings in the future just so people can check on each other to make sure they have enough food and medicine.  Details can be found on the CNY HIV Care Network Facebook page.