Syracuse, N.Y. — Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon is calling for a voluntary “shelter in place” for the next two weeks to fight the coronavirus.
The voluntary shelter in place order starts Tuesday. An order that would close most golf courses begins at 8 p.m. Monday and runs through April 27.
“Now we need more sacrifice,” he said. “We can only win if we’re doing this together.”
McMahon admitted he can’t enforce the alternate day request. It does not apply to essential workers. And you can still run errands to get food and medicine, if needed.
But he’s asking people to go out every other day for medicines, groceries and other essentials in order to stem the spread of the virus. He’s also asking people to go to county parks — such as Onondaga Lake Park — on alternate days. People can still go for walks in their neighborhoods, with their families and roommates, any day of the week, he said.
Without this extra effort, he said, it’s possible the county could see an apex of cases in the next two weeks, one that would overwhelm our local health care system.
“Now’s the time for the community to rally,” he said. “This is a community spread. If we’re going to win this in a timely fashion, we’ve got to do it as a community.”
Here’s how it will work:
- If you were born in an even year, such as 1970, then run errands and go to county parks on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
- If you were born in an odd year, such as 1971, then go out on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
- Sundays will alternate. On April 12 even years go out; on April 19, odd years go out.
The order runs from April 7 to April 21. McMahon said he didn’t know if there were other, similar voluntary requests in New York.
“This disease, this virus is a killer,” McMahon said. “It killed five of our neighbors.”
When asked what spurred these decisions, McMahon told syracuse.com | The Post-Standard that the county was seeing too many new cases emerge from situations that people should be avoiding. He said people hanging out in groups was one problem.
“We’re seeing community spread where it probably should not have happened,” he said.
McMahon said he’s talked to grocery stores about limiting shoppers. That’s a hard thing for them to regulate, he said. Instead, this new request to limit errands should lessen crowds at places like Wegmans.
McMahon wouldn’t say whether there was any virus spread at a golf course, but he did say that the health data the county was collecting contributed to his decision. He also noted earlier today that his office has received many complaints about golfing.
These next two weeks are critical, he said. This is when this community can dramatically stop more people from getting sick and overwhelming the hospital system, he said. In a big surge, Onondaga County could need 300 ventilators, McMahon said, adding the county doesn’t have that many.
That’s why he’s calling for people to stay separate and stay home. “We need the community’s buy-in,” he said. “We have an opportunity right now to flatten this curve.”
Without those measures, some models show we could be stuck in this pattern — with most businesses closed — into the summer.
He’s also closing all golf courses, except for those run by the state. “I don’t think there’s been a bigger complaint than golf courses,” McMahon said of people continuing to play. “People are going out playing with their buddies playing golf.” McMahon said New York officials support the decision. “The data is driving our decisions,” he said.
County parks remain open, he said. But officials are monitoring how close people are and how crowded the parks are, he said.
McMahon said he knows it’s tough. His parents and his wife’s parents live within a couple miles of him. But instead of seeing them, and celebrating Easter together, they can’t do it this year. He’s planning to celebrate with his wife and three children. “This thing could go on way too long if we don’t take it seriously,” he said. “I’m begging you to.”
Clarification: People can go for walks any day of the week, an Onondaga County spokesman said.
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