Onondaga County’s worst day ever: Covid killed 18

Syracuse, NY – As of Tuesday, 18 people have died in Onondaga County from Covid-19, a grim reminder that hopes fueled by the arrival of a vaccine this week are far from fulfilled. It was by far the worst death toll in one day since the coronavirus pandemic arrived in March.

County Executive Ryan McMahon announced the bad news in a live video on Facebook this afternoon.

“This is crushing news,” said McMahon.

With 91 dead so far this month, December is almost certainly the deadliest month of the pandemic. Since March, a total of 332 residents of the province have died.

The highest daily death rate to date was Saturday 11. County officials reported 19 deaths on May 7, but not all occurred within a 24-hour period; they were the result of a list of deaths in nursing homes dating back to March.

The grim news came a day after the first hospital workers in Syracuse were vaccinated against Covid-19 at Upstate University Hospital. Residents of nursing homes are expected to receive vaccination shots early next week, McMahon said. But officials say it will likely take several months for the vaccines to be widely distributed to the public.

Five of the most recent victims died in hospitals. These are men aged 79, 79 and 66 and women aged 92 and 64. Thirteen others died in nursing homes, which do not provide demographic information. McMahon said the deaths in the nursing home are believed to have occurred within the past 24 hours.

The spike in deaths may be a result of the increase in the number of cases from Thanksgiving gatherings. After peaking late last week after the holidays, new cases of coronavirus have diminished somewhat over the past three days.

The county today confirmed 297 new cases since Tuesday, up from 400 or more a day over the weekend, McMahon said. So far, it looks like the Thanksgiving rise is slowing down, he said.

“We believe this is a trend, that we are going in the right direction,” said McMahon, but urged residents to avoid gatherings as the holiday season continues to prevent another spike.

There are 377 Covid-19 patients in Syracuse hospitals today, 299 of whom are residents of Onondaga County, McMahon said. (In the past, McMahon has typically only reported county residents.) Of these, 88 are nursing home residents who are healthy enough to be fired but still test positive for the virus.

County officials await state approval of a plan to move stable Covid-positive nursing home patients to a separate facility to free up space in the hospitals.

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