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McMahon disagrees with state on hospital capacity as Omicron variant looms

Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta and County Executive Ryan McMahon hold a briefing Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Onondaga County officials expect the Omicron variant of COVID-19 to eventually land in central New York, but they’re not sounding any alarm bells just yet. County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta said Tuesday she is closely watching the new variant.

“It’s a reason for concern, but not a reason for panic," she said.

Gupta expects more information to come from areas the variant has been discovered in the coming weeks. And because of that, she said taking the usual pandemic precautions like wearing masks in the meantime is a smart move.

"Keeping the physical distancing, if possible, that will be important, and if you can avoid unnecessary crowded situation, at least for the next two weeks, we need to learn about this virus," said Gupta.

The county is also urging residents to get COVID shots and boosters, and get tested for the coronavirus and stay home, if they are sick. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon is also looking at hospital capacity with a new variant over the horizon.

"All three hospitals are holding their own related to COVID,” said McMahon. “We’re going to continue to monitor this. And we’re going to work on various metrics. But the situation is so fluid it’s hard just to put a number out there right now, and to say if you hit this number it triggers x or y."

After talking to local hospital officials, McMahon disagrees with state figures that show SUNY Upstate and Crouse hospitals, along with several other regional hospitals, among three dozen hospitals statewide as having 10% percent bed capacity or less.

“Not all the hospitals agree with the metrics that are coming out from the state, as a true reflection of their ability to do their job and treat their sick,” he said.

McMahon said hospital leaders have told him they are confident they can move resources to deal with any potential increase in COVID cases, even in the midst of a health care worker shortage.