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Health department: Confirmed flu cases up significantly in Cayuga County

Influenza activity is on the rise throughout the state and local health officials say it's no different in Cayuga County. 

According to the Cayuga County Health Department, since Oct. 1, there have been 250 lab-confirmed cases in the county — that's up from only 20 cases reported for the same time period last season. And since the flu typically peaks in February, the department said cases could continue to climb.

Deanna Ryan, the senior public health educator for the county health department, said statistics show the flu has become much more prevalent in the past few years. In fact, she said, there are likely even more cases that have gone unreported, as there could be infected people that did not seek treatment or testing. 

"To us, we know that the flu is probably more widespread than what the lab cases show because it's based on the number of people who actually go in for testing," Ryan said. 

This year, Auburn Community Hospital spokesperson Matthew Chadderdon said, there have been more patients presenting with flu-like symptoms, which include a fever, cough and sore throat. He said the hospital has noticed a pattern over the past few years — a spike of about 20 percent each season. 

"Our health care professionals are saying that this is a statewide problem and they're seeing those kinds of increases across the state," Chadderdon said. 

But this season, that increase was met by a new challenge, as there has been a shortage of IV fluids nationwide. 

The shortage came after hurricanes struck Puerto Rico, which supplies much of the country with fluid-filled bags. The storms cut power to many of the island's manufacturing plants, including Baxter International — the main supplier for ACH. 

That has forced the hospital to seek sterile IV bags and fluids from other suppliers, Chadderdon said, and at a time when there are more dehydrated patients with the flu. 

"It was really the perfect storm, and every hospital across the country and the state has been affected in one way or another," he said. "Patients at our hospital are fine, but it's certainly something that we have to monitor very closely. ... It's a matter of working with other suppliers that are smaller ... but as time goes by, we are optimistic that they will begin to produce more (bags and fluid)."

Meanwhile, Ryan said the health department is encouraging residents to get vaccinated as flu season typically runs through late spring. 

"Sometimes it's a guessing game as to what strains get made up into the flu vaccine, but it's still important because it reduces the risk and symptoms," she said. "Sometimes from year to year the strains change, so that's why it's encouraged to get it every year." 

Cayuga County Emergency Services asks for new fire training, storage building

AUBURN — After giving a tour at the Cayuga County Fire Training Tower Wednesday night, Niel Rivenburgh, acting director of the county emergency services, asked county legislators to finance a new building. 

The complex on Quarry Road in Auburn has a fire training tower, a large lot storing multiple emergency response trailers, a barn and one indoor facility where classes are held. The trailers are stored outdoors, and Rivenburgh said he spent hours with the help of the county's buildings and groups staff trying to dig some of them out. 

The trailers hold all kinds of equipment for different crises including hazardous waste spills, high-angle rescues and water rescues. There's about $1.6 million worth of equipment on site, Rivenburgh said, and not all of it is stored properly at the Quarry Road location.

"Our capabilities are delayed and/or eliminated by the weather that we have to deal with," he said at a Judicial and Public Safety Committee meeting. "I've got three trailers that I cannot move, three resources that could be needed. They're low probability incidents, but when they're needed, it's critical."

Rivenburgh is proposing a 6,000 square-foot facility with six bays that would allow equipment to easily be moved in and out of the building. He suggested moving a nearby hay barn, which is on the county's land, and erecting the building there. 

He's working with some vendors, he told legislators, to come up with cost estimates. Tentatively the range for a new building is about $220,000 for a basic storage structure to $320,000 for one that is heated, electrically wired and insulated.

Legislature Chairman Patrick Mahunik asked Rivenburgh how the facility has been upgraded in the past. Rivenburgh said most of the work has been done in-kind by volunteer firefighters, the city of Auburn, the Cayuga County Highway Department and his own staff. Some equipment has been donated, but most has been paid for through grant funding. 

The complex is used by all the county's volunteer fire companies, the Auburn Fire Department and local and state law enforcement. Occasionally, too, it is rented out. Rivenburgh said Nucor Steel uses the facility sometimes for its high-angle rescue training. 

He hoped by having the meeting at the training tower, legislators would see and understand the need for a new building, he said.

"There's no way to beat around it," he said. "We build these capabilities so we can help the little guys get through the big incidents. That's what we do. We support them, and they support us, and we have a good thing going. But I need to protect this equipment. If something bad happens and I can't rely on our resources, we fail to do our due diligence."

Though there was no resolution on the table for a new building, Rivenburgh told legislators he hoped to have more concrete cost estimates to the full Legislature at the end of the month. 

In other news:

• The Government Operations Committee tabled a resolution hiring a law firm to appeal a decision, order and judgement requiring the county to pay $300,000 to a former jail inmate. 

The matter involved Richard T. Andrews, who suffered seizures and multiple fractures after jail staff failed to give him his prescription medication, according to the Nov. 1 judgement. A resolution to hire the Frank W. Miller Law Firm to appeal the decision was the topic of an executive session Wednesday night. Legislators chose to table it, with no further discussion.

Oneida Nation sets grand opening for casino near Onondaga County line

The latest central New York casino will open in less than two months. 

The Oneida Nation announced Wednesday that Point Place Casino, a 65,000-square-foot facility in the town of Bridgeport near the Onondaga County line, will hold its grand opening Thursday, March 1. 

Point Place in Madison County will be the third casino operated by the Oneidas. The tribe owns Turning Stone Resort Casino, its largest gaming facility, in Oneida County and "The Wizard of Oz"-themed Yellow Brick Road Casino in Chittenango. 

The new casino will open 10 months after construction began on the $40 million project. The building phase created more than 250 trade jobs, according to the Oneidas. 

The casino will feature nearly 500 slot machines and 20 table games. There will be two restaurants: The Burgers of Madison County, which will serve burgers, milkshakes and other food, and Wicked Good Pizza, a pizza shop that also has locations at Turning Stone and Yellow Brick Road Casino. 

Point Place will have two bars, The Fireside Lounge and Paddle Bar, and Opals Confectionery, a bakery and chocolate shop. 

The Oneidas said Point Place will create more than 200 permanent jobs. A job fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 15 in the plaza at the intersection of Routes 298 and 31. The casino is looking to fill various positions, including bartenders, cooks, security officers and table game dealers. 

The opening of Point Place will come 13 months after del Lago Resort & Casino commenced operations in Seneca County. Del Lago, a non-Indian casino, is one of four projects awarded gaming licenses by the state.

Tioga Downs Casino Resort in Tioga County also received a license. The expanded casino at Tioga Downs opened in December 2016. 

After the state allowed non-Indian casinos to operate in New York, the Oneidas began to expand its gaming offerings within its exclusive zone. The territory, a 10-county area which includes Cayuga and Onondaga counties, is one provision in an agreement between the state and Oneidas. The deal prevents non-Indian casinos from being built within the Oneidas' exclusive zone. 

In 2015, the Oneidas opened Yellow Brick Road Casino. And after del Lago Resort Casino opened in February 2017, the tribe announced plans to open Point Place Casino near the Onondaga County border. 

Point Place Casino will be one hour away from del Lago Resort & Casino. 

"We are thrilled to announce this new investment in central New York, and are confident it will continue the success we have had in working hand-in-hand with the local community to create good jobs and generate public revenues," Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter said in April 2017. 

State police drones to fly over central New York

State police in Onondaga County will be among the first in New York to utilize drones to support law enforcement missions, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday. 

According to a press release from the governor's office, the new State Police Unmanned Aerial System program will provide aerial drones to four state police troops: Troop A, Troop D, Troop F and Troop G. Onondaga County — along with Jefferson, Lewis, Herkimer, Oneida, Onondaga, Madison and Oswego counties — is part of Troop D. 

The drones will be used to support disaster response and traffic safety missions, according to the release. The unmanned aerial system can document and reconstruct motor vehicle crashes in less time than current methods, resulting in shorter road closures and fewer impacts on motorists. The drones can also be used in dangerous situations, including natural disasters, to keep troopers safe. Investigators will also use the aerial drones to document and photograph crime scenes. 

Additionally, unmanned aerial systems will "provide a significant cost savings" over manned aircraft, according to the release, while reducing response times and making operations more efficient and cost effective. 

"This state-of-the-art technology will improve emergency response, improve operational and cost efficiencies and increase trooper safety," Cuomo said. "We will continue to implement innovative technologies to improve our ability to protect New Yorkers across this great state."

State police members who will operate the drones will be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration and undergo 32 hours of hands-on training with the systems. By April 2018, an additional 14 aerial drones will be deployed throughout the state. The New York State Trooper Foundation is donating 16 of the aerial drone systems to the state police.