Dance competition blamed in local COVID outbreak, county executive urges vaccinations | #students | #parents

UTICA — In a Tuesday news conference, Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. spoke to a recent outbreak involving area dance studios that has left hundreds of local students quarantined due to COVID-19 monitoring — and highlighted the need to remain vigilant against the spread of the virus as well as to get vaccinated.

Picente said that a local dance studio — which he declined to name publicly — participated in a dance competition in Syracuse on Saturday where a number of dancers in Central New York also were present.

The problem is that one dance student tested positive for COVID and through exposure to others, that has grown to at least 20 other individuals testing positive for COVID-19, Picente said.

Because of contact tracing efforts, this has led to the Whitesboro School District conducting classes remotely on Tuesday and 300 district students being in mandatory quarantine and others being asked to monitor themselves for symptoms.

This affects hundreds of families, Picente said, adding that he has been in touch with the Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon regarding the situation.

“These cases cause a ripple effect,” Picente said, adding that the dance school did not have a health and safety plan in place to operate a high risk activity. He also said the dance school is cooperating with a health department investigation. According to published reports, more than 20 people associated with the event have since tested positive also impacting other school districts besides Whitesboro.

The result, Picente said, is a disruption for hundreds of families as well as area businesses through what he termed as “carelessness” on the part of certain individuals and impacting those who are following the guidelines.

One way to combat breakout incidents is to get vaccinated, the county executive said.

Currently, about 38% of the eligible population in Oneida County has been fully vaccinated.

However, among populations and age groups that are showing signs of vaccine hesitancy are those age 25 to 45.

“Please get vaccinated … We want to open things up, not close them down,” Picente said.

For more information on vaccinations in Oneida County, visit:

To view Picente’s press conference about the COVID cluster in Oneida County that stemmed from a local dance school and a competition in Syracuse, visit:

On April 19, Oneida County logged 51 new cases total (that figure includes the dance school figures and all other cases) and no new deaths.

Bellamy Elementary goes remote

According to an announcement by Rome City School District Superintendent Peter C. Blake via social media on Tuesday, Bellamy Elementary School “will be remote for the remainder of this week due to staff shortages caused by quarantine requirements.”

No incident or incidents were referenced in the announcement.

“In-person learning will resume on Mon. 4/26,” the posting added. “Please check your email for more info.”

The state

On Tuesday, the statewide COVID-19 positivity rate was 3.37 percent and there were 45 COVID-19 deaths across New York State on Monday.

In a statement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the statewide 7-day average COVID-19 positivity rate had dropped to 2.80 percent, the lowest since November 12. 

Despite vaccines now being available to anyone over the age of 16 and infection rates and hospitalizations trending lower than even one month ago, the work to combat the pandemic virus is not over, the governor said, adding that as of Tuesday, more than 1.3 million doses had been administered over the previous seven day period.

“New York State is making progress in the fight against COVID-19, but we have to remember not to get cocky — this pandemic isn’t over yet and it’s important to continue practicing safe behaviors so we don’t lose the hard-earned gains we’ve made,” Cuomo said, in a statement.

He continued, “…Wash your hands, wear a mask and stay socially distanced not just for your own safety, but to protect your fellow New Yorkers. We’re working 24/7 to vaccinate residents and their families across the state, including opening new vaccination sites and expanding eligibility. We can get to the light at the end of the tunnel together, but it’s going to take more effort on New Yorkers’ part to defeat the COVID beast for good.”

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