Two more COVID-19 deaths in Onondaga County; McMahon starts to talk reopening

Apr 20, 2020

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of two more individuals in Onondaga County over the last day, bringing the death toll to 21. After Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon announced that Monday, he said there were nine new cases, the lowest daily total in a month.

All this data is at the center of discussions the county is having regarding opening up business once again in central New York, and there are some hints about how the region might roll this out.

Conversations are happening daily between leaders in counties surrounding Onondaga County, and McMahon expects to have a restart plan in place later in this month. He won’t say what it will look like yet, noting the state will get the first crack at it. 

But there are hints.

For example, the county is putting together a 'COVID tracking team' to track cases and monitor loosening of restrictions, while still keeping social distancing concepts in place. It would be run out of the county's Health Department, kind of like restaurant inspectors.

"We are going to regulate this with businesses. It’s easier to regulate social distancing and wearing masks with businesses than individuals on the street," McMahon said. "So there will be a regulatory enforcement unit as part of all this."

Among the restrictions McMahon sees easing initially are things like eye doctors or dentists. The biggest restart would be a return to elective surgery, something St Joseph’s Health is ready for according to CEO Les Luke, noting many community members have been waiting months for surgery.

"And some of these community members are in pain, or by waiting, their disease state has advanced further, and so delay causes more problems in the end," Luke said.

McMahon said regardless of the 'New York Pause' date that’s been extended to May 15, he’s looking at April 30 as a good day to take stock in central New York. 

"We start to find that balance on April 30th, based on our health data," he said. "And if we have a good case, we go to the state, 'this is our case, we are ready to do this on this date', not because I said so or because there are protesters, or because people are emailing me, yelling at me all day long, but because the doctors said so."

But McMahon emphasized a restart only happens if people continue the social distancing that keeps data down.