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Onondaga County implementing weekly COVID-19 testing of students, teachers, staff

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon

As students and teachers return back to school, Onondaga County is implementing a weekly COVID-19 testing program for any school in the county. Each week, 10% of the students, teachers and staff in a school building will be randomly tested with a self-administered saliva test. County Executive Ryan McMahon said they can increase that number if they need to.

“If we see some information that suggests we may have a challenge in a building that week, we may want to do more testing that week,” McMahon said. “A reminder, which is very important, is that symptomatic individuals shouldn’t be in the buildings to begin with. If you have symptoms, you’re not supposed to be in the buildings. You need to go deal with a COVID test outside of the school buildings for that.”

The program is voluntary. Parents and schools can register students. McMahon said he expects every school district will opt-in. If they don’t, he’s not opposed to issuing an executive order.

“This will be a multi-million dollar effort we’re putting forward to make sure kids are going into in-person learning and that it’s safe and that we find the virus,” McMahon said. “Certainly, we know at some point, we will find the virus in the classroom. Then we box that in. We’ve gotten really good at that over the last year.”

McMahon already implemented an executive order requiring teachers and staff be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. Any student, teacher or staff can get a rapid test before they go back to school on Tuesday at NBT Bank Stadium.

Onondaga County continues to deal with the more contagious delta variant. There’s still a high transmission rate in the community, but the numbers are stable at around 700-800 new cases per week. McMahon said so far, there have not been significant clusters or superspreaders of the virus at the New York State Fair, and most positive cases are due to household spread and travel.