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McMahon to state: Stop micromanaging pandemic response

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon says he didn’t receive a call from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s vaccine czar last weekend gauging political support for the embattled governor. But during a briefing Monday, McMahon said he does understand why at least one county executive filed an ethics complaint about such a call.

Multiple reports said Cuomo aide Larry Schwartz called a number of county executives over the weekend, trying to gather support for Cuomo, who is facing a call for his resignation from a majority of state and federal lawmakers. Schwartz also manages the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution to counties. That led some county officials to believe their vaccine supply may be at risk if they didn’t pledge support for Cuomo.

Even though McMahon, a Republican, didn’t get a call, he said this story points out an issue that comes with the state’s continued control of the pandemic response, and the vaccine supply.

“And a fear of counties is that politics is being played, or can be potentially played,” McMahon said. “So the phone calls, whether intentional or not, left a chilling effect on not just county executives, but county leaders throughout the state."

That’s why McMahon says the time has come for the state to stop micromanaging the pandemic, and let local governments handle things without state approval for every little thing. He said Onondaga County is a prime example of a community that is keeping COVID numbers down, yet must comply with state regulations. He used the Syracuse University’s men’s basketball team’s upcoming appearance in the NCAA tournament as an example. The Orange will play San Diego St. at 9:40 p.m. Friday.

“It’s not feasible why we are at 0.7% positive rate for a month, and restaurants are closed at 11:00 p.m., and SU plays at 9:40,” he said. “Are we going to kick everyone out of the place at halftime, or are we setting ourselves up for failure?"

He’s asked the state to allow Onondaga County to extend restaurant closing times. He’s also asking the state to increase eligibility for the COVID vaccine, to anyone who is 50 and over. McMahon said at this point in the pandemic, local governments know best.

“We’ve seen the conditions on the ground before the state has,” he said. “Let us manage our own community now."

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.