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Stay up to date with the latest news on the coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. We'll post regular updates from NPR and regional news from the WRVO newsroom. You can also find updates on our live blog.

Onondaga County could receive first doses of COVID-19 vaccine next week

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Symptomatic testing continues at the F-Shed at the Syracuse Regional Market.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said he believes the county will receive the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by next week. But he added that the county is still in a very big fight with the virus.

Frontline health care workers and nursing home residents and staff will be the first to receive the vaccine. Distribution sites will be at some hospitals, and the federal government, in partnership with pharmacies, will distribute the vaccine in nursing homes. The Pfizer vaccine comes in two doses. McMahon said the first dose is 50% effective.

“Three weeks later, those same residents will get the second dose of Pfizer,” McMahon said. “And within that three weeks, we might even see the Moderna vaccine distributed in a first wave, too. The light is that we have our most vulnerable and our frontline heroes are going to be receiving a very effective vaccine in a week.”

McMahon announced on Thursday, six more residents have died from the virus. The positivity rate is at 5.8% with more than 290 new cases. There are 248 people being hospitalized with 45 people in ICUs. Twenty people are waiting to be released from the hospital. They’ve overcome the health effects, but they can’t go back to a nursing home until they test negative, which could take weeks or even a month. That could stress hospital capacity.

“This will be a bigger problem if we don’t head it off,” McMahon said. “We got a plan and hopefully we’ll get the state’s approval on that in short order.”

The plan would include bringing those people to a building in Onondaga County, other than a hospital. There are still close to 470 open beds in the area’s three main hospitals. McMahon said Friday could be the county’s worst day so far, with 400 new cases.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.