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McMahon: No new COVID restrictions yet, but that could change

WRVO News (file photo)

As parts of western New York are imposing mask mandates to try and slow the spread of the latest surge of COVID-19, Onondaga County isn’t planning on any kind of COVID-related restrictions anytime soon. But officials are paying attention to particular data that could change that.

There are two numbers Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said will tell him there’s a need for some kind of mask mandate or other restriction as we head into the holiday season. First is the number of positive COVID-19 cases per thousand. Right now it’s about 50. If it goes up to 70, things change.

“We would start with certainly large gatherings, vax or test, we would provide testing,” McMahon said. “We would potentially look at indoor mask mandates related to specific areas where our vulnerable have to interact on a daily basis."

The other number is how many hospital beds are available in central New York. He’s planning to meet with hospital officials to assess that, because the hospital landscape has changed dramatically in the last year due to a health care worker shortage that’s forced some hospitals to shut down beds.

"A year ago it was 300. It’s not 300 today,” he said. “What is that number? I need to hear that from them, and we need to establish that metric."

In the meantime, McMahon is calling on the community to do the things that will tamp down the virus and ensure Onondaga County won’t have to follow the example of Erie County, which this week implemented a mask mandate.

"We will increase our testing. We will be smart. When we’re indoors, especially where the immunocompromised are, we wear masks. And if we’re sick, we’ll stay home. And if we do these things, these things will take care of themselves, and these mitigation efforts won’t be necessary."

McMahon also said Tuesday that he wouldn’t hesitate to hire some of the nurses who recently lost their jobs at area hospitals, because they didn’t follow the state’s COVID vaccine mandate.

"I’ll certainly be interested in talking to hospitals, ‘who were the employees you had to let go? I need nurses.’ We had 30, I believe, in the beginning in the pandemic. I have eight right now. And many of them went to work at hospitals. But I’m certainly willing to hire these people.”

McMahon said if the county can get more personnel, it can conduct more vaccine and booster shot clinics. Dozens of hospital employees from Upstate, Crouse and St. Joseph’s have been let go because they didn’t get a vaccine before a Monday evening deadline.

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.