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Onondaga County resists countywide mask mandate

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)
County Executive Ryan McMahon says he will not mandate masks at this point.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said he is not ready to issue a countywide mask mandate but is asking people who live in the county to take the Delta variant of COVID-19 seriously.

McMahon said it’s important for the county to find a balance when dealing with Delta. He’s asking people to be smart about the virus variant by getting vaccinated, getting tested when they have symptoms, and wearing a mask when they feel it’s necessary.

He said even though the county has technically passed the CDC threshold for recommending masks for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, he won’t mandate the masks at this point.

"When we were seeing these same caseloads 60-90 days ago, we were loosening up regulations,” said McMahon. “We weren't adding them on. Now, if you see these sustained increases to these caseloads, then all bets are off, and we reserve the right to pivot, and we will use all the tools we have in the toolbox."

In the meantime, county officials are focused on protecting the most vulnerable people in the community by mandating masks in senior citizens’ facilities.

Also, Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta is pointing out schools should be vigilant about the highly contagious Delta variant. She said for children who are too young to get vaccines, masks are the best tools available to protect them.

"You don't know which child is going to have the long-term consequences,” said Gupta. “You have seen it can impact the heart and the lungs and the nervous system. It can have depression, chronic fatigue. So many other things can come with it."

McMahon said the county has also had issues with people not cooperating with contact tracers. He said tracing has been a vital tool in containing the virus, and he will enact financial penalties if necessary.

To help track the spread of the virus in central New York, more testing sites will become available starting later this week.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.