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Onondaga County ramping up testing for students, staffers with coronavirus symptoms

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News (file photo)
Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse is testing symptomatic school kids and staff members at NBT Bank Stadium

Testing for school staffers and students with symptoms of the coronavirus is ramping up in Onondaga County this week to try to catch the virus before it makes its way into schools. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said Monday about 50 tests were done during the first day of testing at NBT Bank Stadium in Syracuse.

"Last year at this time, if you woke up with the sniffles, it was no big deal," said Upstate University Hospital CEO Dr. Robert Corona. "This year, everybody worries about the potential of having COVID, because you never know how this virus is going to behave."

Upstate is part of a new COVID-19 testing initiative for any students, teachers or staff in Onondaga County schools who develop COVID-like symptoms.  

During a briefing Monday, McMahon described one possible scenario.

"A child goes to school. His or her teacher notices the child has a cough. The teacher sends the student to the nurse's office, who then contacts the parent. The parent says the child has allergies. The nurse communicates to the parent, that according to health guidelines in New York State, COVID-19 must be ruled out."

State rules say the child must present a negative COVID-19 test and a doctor's note.

Families can make an appointment at the new testing site at NBT Bank Stadium. McMahon said results will be returned within 24 to 48 hours, which allows the county to begin contact tracing in the event of a positive test.

"Also it will help get your child back in the classroom, getting COVID ruled out. So it’s the least disruptive to your schedule for that."

Corona admits this time of year, with kids getting together in school, germs are going to spread, and upper respiratory ailments are more common. He expects a lot of negative tests from testing. 

Still, he said, there are symptoms that may warrant an appointment at the testing site.

"The big red flags are typically fever, a sore throat, dry cough, muscle aches," Corona said. "But again, you could use that criteria for almost any upper respiratory infection. The muscle aches, fever and dry cough would make you most suspicious."

Officials say the next step to control the virus in schools is pool testing for asymptomatic children and staffers.

Testing at NBT Bank Stadium is available from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Monday-Friday, but only for students or staffers showing symptoms. Appointments are required and can be made by calling 315-464-2582, and select option 4.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.