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Onondaga County begins coronavirus testing at schools inside microcluster zone

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)

Onondaga County has started testing children for COVID-19 in schools in the state designated “yellow zone,” created after a surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

County Executive Ryan McMahon announced another 178 cases Thursday. There have been more than 500 cases this week. Being designated a yellow zone means added restrictions, like limited gatherings and earlier closing of bars and restaurants. 

But the biggest challenge may be testing 20% of students and staff in schools in the yellow zone. At least 50 out of 85 schools have agreed to take part in the testing, according to McMahon. And the county started the first round of testing at a private school Wednesday.

“The Word of Life Academy in Baldwinsville, small school, I believe it’s going well,” McMahon said. “This is a good one to do a test run through as next week will be busy.”

County officials are working on the details of the testing which will begin in earnest next week. More than three dozen employees from other county departments are being moved to help with this testing effort, which McMahon has called “Herculean.”

“Parents and teachers, teachers as well, want to stay with in-person learning,” he said. “So that is something if there’s commitment from the districts, we’ve made our commitment that we will rearrange the deck in what we do, and focus on that being our priority.”

McMahon said the county will use a state-provided test which will provide results in 15 minutes.  If schools can’t reach the 20% testing metric, they will have to shift to full remote learning.

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.