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Onondaga County may soon fine residents with COVID-19 who don't cooperate with contact tracers

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media (file photo)

Onondaga County may soon be cracking down on people who test positive for COVID-19, who don’t cooperate with contact tracers.

It’s something the county has considered in the past: handing out fines to people who have tested positive for COVID-19, but don’t answer the phone when the health department calls. Contact tracing involves finding out who else in the community has been exposed to someone who has COVID, in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus.

County Executive Ryan McMahon said Thursday while they didn’t have to resort to it in earlier days of the pandemic, the idea of a fine is on the table now, when some days half the people who’ve tested positive won’t answer contact tracers questions.

"We know who you are, and we know where you live. Because you got a test and we have the data,” said McMahon. “So if this is still an issue next week, I’m going to issue an executive order which will allow a $500 fine for non-compliance with contact tracing."

McMahon said it’s not fair to force the county into this position when it’s trying to make sure the delta variant doesn’t get a stranglehold on the community.

“By not working with us, is not in your interest and not in the communities interest, and quite frankly it’s extremely selfish and not acceptable,” he said.

During a briefing Thursday, McMahon said there seems to have been little community spread of COVID-19 from the New York State Fair, which ended Monday.

“The reality is that it was very easy to physically distance at the fair this year,” he said.