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Binghamton Mayor Tests Positive For COVID After Meeting With Mayors; Sheehan, McCarthy In Quarantine

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan

The mayor of Binghamton says he is resting at home after testing positive for COVID-19 Wednesday night.

Rich David, a Republican, tweeted that he is “feeling fine” and is working with the local health department to ensure proper contact tracing. David says the coronavirus pandemic is “deadly” and the U.S. is far from the end of it. The news comes during a COVID spike in Broome County, where there are more than 500 active cases.

David, president of the New York Conference of Mayors, spoke at a press conference that also included Albany’s Kathy Sheehan and Schenectady’s Gary McCarthy Wednesday in Syracuse.

Sheehan says she is entering a precautionary quarantine and said her contact wtih David was minimal. Sheehan says she will continue her duties as mayor during the voluntary move. 

Sheehan's chief of staff tells WAMC the mayor is getting a COVID test as soon as possible "and is awaiting further advice from health experts on length of quarantine."  

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh and Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, who were also at Wednesday's event discussing the need for federal coronavirus relief aid, say they will quarantine as a precaution. 

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy spoke with WAMC News at 1 p.m. Thursday. He said the NYCOM meeting featured masks, social distancing and hand sanitizer, and that Mayor David called him Wednesday night to share word of the positive test. McCarthy plans to be tested for COVID soon, and says he will work from home in voluntary quarantine.

Credit Lucas Willard / WAMC

First of all, can you just let us know what your current health is how you're feeling and what your quarantine setup will be?

I'm fine. Just staying at home and with the guidance, looking at 14 days, absent some change based on testing that will happen in the next few days.

So you'll be going to get a test?


Did you have any interactions or did you speak with the mayor of Binghamton on Wednesday?

Yes, I did. We were all at the press conference and the NYCOM executive committee meeting.

Did people have masks on for most of it?

Yes. Masks, hand sanitizer, social distancing was being practiced the whole day.

When you spoke with the mayor of Binghamton, were you were both wearing masks at that time? Were you closer than 6 feet?

Wearing masks, at the conference  we were spread out. Just approaching it with an abundance of caution.

How did you find out that he had tested positive for COVID?

Mayor David called me last night and told me.

I just have another question about the NYCOM meeting. Why was it held in person at this stage of the game?

You have to direct that to Peter Baynes, the executive director, but I think part of it was set up where we were doing this press conference to get together to advocate for federal funding, because of the impacts our respective communities and other communities are feeling because of the COVID pandemic. And so while everybody was together, it just made sense to meet and, again, deal with some other related issues.

Given the fact of the Binghamton mayor's positive tests, though, was it a mistake to all gather in one spot?

I…it's the insidious nature of this virus where I don't think it's a mistake. But again, it goes to the point where everybody has to practice wearing the facemask, doing the social distancing, washing your hands, taking those common sense precautions that seem to mitigate the effects and the transmission of it.

How will the city be functioning with you potentially, you know, working from home for the next two weeks. What has to change in terms of operations on your end?

There won't be any changes.

Just one more thing on coronavirus. I know you're labeling this as a precautionary quarantine. Were there are people you came in contact with since the NYCOM event Wednesday that are now also going into quarantine? Are there people you have to contact at this point?

I’m waiting for the county health department to call me back. They’re saying that those people are contacts with a contact that are very low risk. And so even that in that first brief period of time, you're not necessarily contagious. So it's like, if I took a test today, they're saying in all likelihood, it would come back negative. You need some time for it to incubate.

And then you'll just be monitoring any changes in symptoms or temperature over the next few days?


A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.