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149 new coronavirus cases in Onondaga County; Syracuse mayor in quarantine for second time

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News (file photo)

Onondaga County officials reported 149 new cases of the coronavirus Friday, smashing the previous record for the highest number of cases in a single day since the pandemic began. 

County Executive Ryan McMahon said during a briefing Friday there are now 49 people hospitalized, with six in critical condition.  There are now 709 active cases in the county. 

He said active cases are directly related to hospitalizations. 

"We get calls to my office, I get people trolling me online, doing all sorts of things, to say the virus isn't real," McMahon said. "Well, there's 49 people in the hospital because of the virus, and it's directly related to the number of cases. The more cases we have, the more hospitalizations we get. That's a fact."

McMahon said the county will be increasing testing, especially among bar and restaurant workers. He said there are multiple clusters of cases coming from bars and restaurants. 

New York will likely place new COVID-related restrictions on areas of Western New York, the Rochester area, and Onondaga County early next week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday, as those areas continue to experience relatively high rates of the virus.

Cuomo said Erie County, Monroe County, and Onondaga County have among the highest positivity rates in the state, and that he’d coordinate with local officials on new rules.

"Western New York is a problem," Cuomo said. “They are lower than states surrounding us, but relative to New York, they are the highest spots in New York.”

Erie County, he said, has a positivity rate of those tested for the virus of 3.1% at the moment, while Monroe County is at 2.6%. Both counties have a few of the state’s largest cities, with Buffalo in Erie County and Rochester in Monroe County.

It’s unclear what the cause of the spread has been in those areas, but Cuomo said he’ll tighten COVID-related rules over the weekend to slow the trajectory of the virus. That’s part of the state’s new plan to create new ‘zones’ for new rules, rather than restricting entire regions.

McMahon said he has not spoken to the governor yet, but said he's hoping to get more resources from the state. 

"I know the state is going to give us more rapid testing. With more resources, we can do more surgically to hunt down and box in the virus." McMahon said. 

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, who spent two weeks in quarantine last month after Binghamton's mayor tested positive for COVID-19, announced Friday that he was quarantining once again. Speaking during a virtual news conference Friday, Walsh said he had been exposed to a city employee who had tested positive and will work primarily from home for the next 14 days, though he said as an essential employee, he may need to go into the office. He said he plans to be tested early next week.

"We have a real challenge here, and my own quarantine is just the latest reminder that numbers are going up locally, regionally, and nationally," Walsh said."We need to continue to take the necessary precautions. In fact, we need to take more precautions. We can just maintain the status quo. We have to do more."

Other areas of the state that were previously in a bad spot related to COVID have shown signs of improvement in recent days, Cuomo said.

The restrictions surrounding a microcluster in the Far Rockaway neighborhood of Queens will be lifted, he said. A zone with heavy coronavirus-related restrictions in Brooklyn will also shrink by 50%, according to Cuomo, and progress has also been made in the lower Hudson Valley.

Still, the statewide positivity rate for the virus has remained relatively high in recent days, with numbers compared to what was reported in the late spring, rather than at the lowest point of the virus in July and August.

As of Thursday, the latest data available, the positivity rate in New York was 1.91%, Cuomo said. That’s fueled, in part, by the focused strategy in the state’s microcluster zones, where testing is concentrated on the most affected communities.

Cuomo said part of the blame for the rise in the virus is due to a lack of enforcement by local law enforcement and health officials over restrictions that are already in place, like limits on mass gatherings and mask mandates.