COVID-19 cases in Oswego County have tripled in the last week, with dozens of cases linked to SUNY Oswego

OSWEGO — The number of active, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Oswego County have spiked in recent days, surpassing the previous highs set in late June after a series of positives test results from the SUNY Oswego campus.

The Oswego County Health Department reported 82 active, confirmed cases of the coronavirus Thursday, more than triple the number reported a week ago. Health officials Sept. 3 reported 25 active positive cases of COVID-19 throughout Oswego County, and in the last two weeks SUNY Oswego has reported 75 positive cases of the virus.

The previous high for active cases in the county, 61, came on June 25 after an outbreak at an apple processing facility in Oswego Town. State and local health officials tested more than 100 employees at the facility in June and discovered a cluster that reportedly resulted in more than 80 cases in Oswego and Onondaga counties.

Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang confirmed a majority of the recent positive cases in the county have come from SUNY Oswego, but noted the school is part of the larger community and shouldn’t be thought about as a separate entity. Other cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the county “here and there,” Huang said, but none have developed into clusters.

Since the first positive cases in the county were announced March 22, Oswego County has largely avoided any major outbreaks, but nearly 400 individuals have tested positive for the coronavirus over the past nearly six months. More than 40,000 tests have been conducted in total, according to county data, and 394 individuals have tested positive.

Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow said the increase in positive cases did not come as a surprise, noting the Port City is a community of 18,000 that just introduced another 7,000-plus people from other areas, in addition to a “rigorous testing program.”

“We’ve seen the spike in cases, as expected, and the real test will be in our response and the response of the student community,” the mayor said, adding SUNY Oswego and the city have been “working in lockstep” and taking the necessary steps to curb the spread of the virus.

SUNY Oswego this week announced a number of measures aimed at isolating students who have tested positive for the virus, or those who have come into contact with infected individuals. President Deborah Stanley said the school is “significantly increasing on-campus testing immediately,” and the school on Wednesday hosted recently appointed SUNY Chancellor Dr. James Malatras, who expressed confidence in the school’s ability to control the virus.

Stanley earlier this week sent a message to students, faculty and staff to address the increased number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, but noted the infection rate on campus remained low.

“We have a very low infection rate and are faring better than many other campuses across the state and around the nation at this time,” Stanley said in a Monday email, adding campus officials are “closely monitoring results and taking appropriate action in consultation with the Oswego County Health Department.”

Huang said county and state health officials are working with SUNY Oswego to stop the spread of COVID-19 before it turns into a larger outbreak. He commended college officials for taking the necessary steps to halt the proliferation of the virus.

“The college is doing a great job trying to contain the diseases’ further spread, but our community still needs to be very diligent in preventing it ourselves,” Huang said, pointing to the now familiar refrain of “handwashing, facemasking and social distancing.”

Barlow said SUNY Oswego developed a thorough and intelligent plan, called Oswego Forward, to guide the school’s reopening. Barlow noted the city and college started a wastewater testing regimen for early detection of the virus, adding officials are “engaging the virus from all ends and watching the data.”

“The focus, at this time, should be for these young adults to not gather in groups, stop hosting parties, be cognizant of what they’re doing and stop the spread that is taking place throughout these social circles,” the mayor said.

Port City and SUNY officials have worked together to cut down on large social gatherings and encourage proper social distancing and other protective measures in recent weeks. Barlow said city officials “proactively went door to door to persuade students and young adults to not get together in the first place.”

For those who haven’t heeded the warnings, Barlow said the Oswego Police Department (OPD) has been patrolling neighborhoods and addressing parties and mass gatherings, breaking up parties when discovered and issuing fines to the hosts. He also noted OPD is forwarding the names of attendees to SUNY Oswego.

The overwhelming majority of individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 in Oswego County have recovered, with the county saying Thursday 308 of 394 positive cases have recovered. Four individuals have died as a result of complications related to the virus.

Positive cases of COVID-19 have been identified in each reporting area in Oswego County, which include all the towns and cities, according to county data. The cities of Oswego and Fulton have the highest number of confirmed cases, followed by Oswego Town, Granby and Hastings.

Health officials urge residents to take these precautions:

• Wear a face mask or covering over your nose and mouth.

• Keep six feet from other people.

• Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Stay home if you are sick unless you are seeking health care.

• Call your healthcare provider from home if you are experiencing symptoms such as a fever,

cough or shortness of breath.

• Call 911 if you are experiencing life-threatening conditions.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, chills, repeated shaking with chills, gastrointestinal illness and new loss of taste or smell.

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