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Onondaga County to again require indoor mask wearing at senior facilities

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon (next to podium), seen in this photo taken March 4, on Monday announced the county has its first two confirmed cases of coronavirus, a woman in her 70s and her husband. Citing privacy, Dr. Indu Gupta, Onondaga County Health Commissioner (at podium in this picture), declined to provide any additional details about the patients. (Eric Reinhardt / CNYBJ)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Onondaga County will again require indoor mask wearing for the county’s nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and independent-living facilities amid the county’s recent increase in COVID-19 cases.

However, the indoor mask-wearing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) won’t yet become a county mandate for the public.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon discussed both topics with local reporters during a midday COVID-19 briefing on Zoom.


He plans to sign an executive order on indoor mask wearing at senior facilities either Monday or Tuesday, noting that “most senior facilities are already doing this.”  

“Recently in cases, we have seen a reminder of the impact to our most vulnerable [residents] with COVID … our most vulnerable being seniors and our neighbors in the community who are immunocompromised. So, we will take some action related to this today,” McMahon said.

Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta also joined McMahon to discuss the delta variant of COVID-19, which is causing this increase in local cases as well as statewide and nationwide.

The CDC has placed Onondaga County in the “substantial transmission orange” category based on new cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days, meaning the CDC recommends indoor mask wearing in the county.

The county executive said he’s not ready to go there yet.

“I’m not ready to mandate [CDC mask-wearing] guidance on the community because this is about more than just new cases. When 33 percent of your cases are household contacts, those cases don’t represent as much risk to the public at large as others,” said McMahon.

Onondaga County has seen an uptick in cases during the last week and anticipates the trend to continue “for a period of time.” The county reported 51 cases on Saturday, 62 on Sunday, and 36 on Monday.

“The vaccine is our best tool for winning this fight overall with COVID but also to avoid any invasive government regulation into your lives,” McMahon noted.

The county executive said there are 21 people in area hospitals, up from a low of 10 on July 23. The hospitalized number includes five in an intensive-care unit. The county didn’t have any additional deaths from COVID-19 during the weekend. Total deaths during the pandemic remain at 454.

Besides the indoor mask wearing at senior facilities, county officials also “strongly recommend” that seniors and immunocompromised residents in the community consider wearing masks when you’re going to be in gatherings indoors.

“I think that’s guidance that we’re giving that’s based off the science and the data … mask wearing is a tool we have. It’s a mitigation tool,” said McMahon.

Gupta on delta variant

In her remarks during the Zoom session, Gupta said the “highly contagious” delta variant came from India, arriving in the U.S. by way of “global migration and travel.”

“… this COVID-19 virus, which has shown changes with the time from the U.K. variant to Brazilian variant to the South African variant, now to the variant from India, which is the delta one … that it keeps on changing. The good part is that the vaccine is still very effective. That is a very important part of that … However, we shouldn’t forget about the tools which we already have before the vaccine was available … masks and physical distancing and temperature checks … they should continue to be part of that,” said Gupta.

Onondaga County will soon announce a schedule for COVID-19 testing for the community at large. “That’s going to be a tool for us to identify the virus and isolate the virus quickly.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, whether it’s a cold or stomach issues, the county is asking you to get a COVID-19 test at this point. Even if you’re vaccinated, breakthrough cases are possible, so if you have light symptoms, McMahon and Gupta are recommending you get a test.



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