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McMahon ‘disappointed’ no funding for local governments in COVID-19 relief package

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon.

There’s no funding for local governments in the latest aid package, soon to be passed by Congress. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon continues to fume about the way local governments have been left out of the funding loop.

"Obviously, we’re very disappointed local governments are being used as a bargaining chip,” McMahon said. “And being one of the largest employers in the community fighting this pandemic, the frontline employer fighting the pandemic, is kind of ridiculous at this point.”

McMahon is optimistic the county could pick up some funds in the bill as part of the Save Our Stages Act, which will help employees in the entertainment business. And he’s pleased there are more funds for small businesses. But he said the county is still struggling budget wise. Onondaga County missed out on the first round of aid earlier this year, which was based on population numbers.

There are some positive trends in the latest COVID-19 cases in Onondaga County. McMahon said the Thanksgiving surge of cases seems to be easing.

"Our asymptomatic testing, now three days in a row, much lower positivity rates than before,” McMahon said. “Our wastewater testing that showed spikes for Halloween and Thanksgiving. That’s suggesting we’re going to have a downward turn in cases.”

However, he’s concerned that people getting together for end-of-year celebrations could upend all that.  And while there is optimism with front line workers and nursing home residents now getting a vaccine, McMahon called the number of deaths, numbing. The virus has killed 119 people since the beginning of December, with more than 50 of those deaths reported in just the last week.

Contact tracing

Instead of a phone call, COVID positive individuals may be getting a text from the Onondaga County Health Department about test results. McMahon said it’s a way to streamline the often time-consuming task of COVID patient investigations.

“This will give folks who are very good with technology the opportunity to just answer the questionnaire, get it in, then it goes to contact tracing after that,” McMahon said. “Some folks won’t want to, that’s okay, they’ll still get a phone call. But it’s another tool that we’ll be using so we can turn our investigations around as quickly as possible.”

Because of the increase of cases in recent weeks, it’s taken longer for county workers to conduct these investigations, which can take an hour or two for each one. Getting people in quarantine as soon as possible is key to keeping the virus under control.

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.