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McMahon: Community making 'unforced errors' by going to work sick

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photo courtesy of Onondaga County
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Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon getsa flu shot Wednesday

Getting a flu shot is taking on added urgency during the coronavirus pandemic, especially as the weather gets colder and cases of COVID-19 start to tick upward again.

Onondaga County reported 53 new cases Wednesday. That concerns Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, because many of those cases involve people who have been going to work while sick. He said they’re not doing it intentionally, they just think they have allergies or a cold. So he’s pleading with residents to stay away from work and get tested for COVID-19 before going back.

“We can’t go backwards and it’s up to us,” McMahon said Wednesday. “So please, if you’re sick, get a COVID test, stay home until you get results, then you can go back to work.”

McMahon also did something Wednesday he’d never done before: he got a flu shot.

“No big deal, my first ever,” he said.

While getting the shot itself is no big deal, the confluence of the flu and COVID-19 is a very big deal. McMahon said keeping flu-related patients out of the hospital is crucial at a time the number of cases of COVID-19 is creeping higher across central New York and the state.

“The flu can lead to hospitalizations, and it can challenge our infrastructure just like COVID can,” he said. “So we need to keep our infrastructure in place as we are buying time for a vaccine for COVID-19.”

Health professionals are also worried, because the symptoms of the flu can mimic those of COVID-19.

“If people are able to become vaccinated with the influenza vaccine sooner rather than later, that protects them from getting a respiratory illness,” said Luke Probst, executive director of Pharmacy Services at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse. “If they’ve been vaccinated, there’s a better chance there’s no confusion between influenza and COVID.”

Probst said there is a good supply of the flu vaccine available in the community, so getting that flu shot shouldn’t be a problem.