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Daily records shattered as local counties fight surge of COVID-19

A 3D-generated image of the coronavirus variant of concern known as omicron. The little bumps are spike proteins (see definition below).
A 3D-generated image of the coronavirus variant of concern known as omicron. The little bumps are spike proteins (see definition below).

Leaders from three local counties are speaking out and offering advice to the community amid a major spike in COVID-19 cases.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said we knew the surge was coming, and now it’s here. The county announced a daily record of 768 new cases Thursday, and McMahon expects 1700-2100 new cases going into the holiday weekend. McMahon said we have broad-based community spread, contact tracing is now impossible, and people should take steps to protect themselves and loved ones, especially those who are elderly or immunocompromised.

“I think we just need to hunker down, do what we know works, and certainly, we’ll get through all of this” said McMahon. “This isn’t a time to panic. It’s a time to certainly reassess what we’re all focused in on over the next few weeks here.”

McMahon said county officials are keeping a close eye on the local healthcare systems, making sure they don’t get overwhelmed. He said 92% of the positive cases reported Thursday are in people younger than 60 years old. He reported 139 people in the hospital, but he said seniors, who are the most likely to get seriously ill, are getting the virus at much lower rates thanks to vaccines and booster shots.

"For us to be able to really move forward, we need to encourage people to go get boosted,” said McMahon. “You need to stay home when sick. You need to mask when you're in public, and if we do all these things together, we'll get through this and get on the other side of this sooner rather than later related to Omicron."

Oneida County released data Thursday showing 753 new positive cases, the highest number ever reported in that county.

County Executive Anthony Picente said he knows the numbers look shocking, but he is comforted by the fact the hospitalization numbers are about half of what they were at their peak, showing vaccines make a difference.

“This is what it’s going to be for a while longer,” said Picente. “Maybe even into 2022, deeper than we had hoped. Yet, there is a way to combat it. Get vaccinated, get boosted if you haven’t.”

Oswego County has a 26% positivity rate. It has started its distribution of more than 50,000 KN95 face masks to the community. The county is also waiting for a shipment of at-home rapid COVID-19 tests to distribute. Officials hope to get those in about a week.

County Administrator Phil Church said he doesn’t want to issue countywide mandates on top of the mandates already put in place by the state, and he hopes people will do what they can on their own to help stop the spread.

"As human beings, we need to do what we can to protect each other,” said Church. “If it's a minor thing like wearing a mask, then that's a pretty minor thing to ask people to do."