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McMahon says Onondaga County is “still in good shape” on COVID

By Eric Reinhardt (


Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, seen in this file photo from December 2018, says Onondaga County is “still in good shape” in its COVID-19 case numbers compared to other areas of the country dealing with a rise in cases from the virus’s delta variant. (Eric Reinhardt / CNYBJ file photo)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Though Onondaga County has had a recent increase in COVID-19 cases, the county’s top official says the data doesn’t yet indicate the need for great concern locally, especially when compared to surging cases in other parts of the nation.

 “We’re still in good shape and we need to keep things in perspective,” Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said Thursday.

McMahon spoke with reporters during a noon-hour briefing at the John H. Mulroy Civic Center.

He noted that Onondaga County was in its worst shape with the virus back in December and January when the county was averaging upwards of 350 COVID cases a day and hospitalizations peaked at nearly 340.

“Bad numbers are when you have 300, 400, 500 cases a day. Bad numbers are when you have close to 100 people in the [intensive-care unit]. Bad numbers are when we’re losing 18 to 20 people in a day, and bad numbers are when we have thousands of active cases,” McMahon said.

Onondaga County’s COVID-19 case count dwindled to almost zero “probably about a month ago,” which he described as “essentially statistically insignificant” when you have a county the size of Onondaga County (population of about 460,000) that has two or three or four cases in a day.

McMahon anticipates a daily-case number in the 30s again on Thursday, as it was on Wednesday.

“What’s important is the hospitalization numbers will be stable again, very very low, and I believe they’ll go down a little bit today,” he added. “Overall, that’s kind of where things are. The county currently has 15 people currently hospitalized with COVID, down one from the day before, but up from a recent low of 10.

Vaccinations are the key to overcoming this recent move up in cases, McMahon contends. A Pfizer clinic is scheduled for Friday between 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 Green Hills Farms at 5933 S. Salina St. in Syracuse.

Onondaga County has so far vaccinated 76 percent of its adult population with at least one dose. Of the county’s total population, nearly 64 percent have received at least one dose. Those vaccinations numbers are slightly higher than the state’s vaccination rates and significantly higher than the nation’s numbers.

“I think you get an uptick of activity and anxiety overall when cases go up. That’s why I think … we just need to find the balance,” said McMahon.

The county executive also addressed the recently revised mask guidance from the CDC, advising vaccinated people to again wear masks indoors in virus hot spots. McMahon said he doesn’t believe those who have been vaccinated need go back to wearing masks in this county at this juncture, for three reasons.

“A … Even according to the CDC data points [that] they look at, we’re not there,” McMahon said. “B … I think it is a conflicting message and a deterrent for people to get vaccinated. And C … any decision we make related to that if we ever get there, we will incorporate hospital data into that because we’re going to have positive cases of COVID. This was never about getting to zero [cases] when this all started. It was about flattening the curve.”

McMahon says Onondaga County is discussing a vaccination or testing mandate with its employee unions and getting their feedback. Gov. Andrew Cuomo had announced a similar mandate for state workers and health-care workers at state-run hospitals on Wednesday.



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