Coronavirus Update, March 13, 2020

Cornell University announced that all classes have been suspended for the next three weeks, and that students are strongly encouraged to go home. Virtual instruction for all classes is set to begin on Monday April 6.

In the announcement, Cornell University President Martha Pollack provided a number of reasons for the suspension. First, it would encourage social distancing to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. It would also give students the chance to get home at a time when travel is difficult. The university also recognizes that the stress students are currently under have made classroom learning difficult. 

The announcement went on to say that all undergraduate and most professional students were strongly encouraged to return to their permanent homes by March 29th. Students are also expected to leave on-campus housing -- unless they meet criteria for exceptions, such as international students who cannot go home. Graduate degree students requiring access to campus facilities were also listed as exceptions to the direction to go home.

Tompkins County Health department says there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county as of this evening. There are 421 cases in New York as of this afternoon, according to the New York Health Department.

Following Cornell University’s announcement that undergraduate students would not be returning to campus directly after spring break, local business leaders are expressing concern about revenue loss.

The Ithaca Journal reports that each week, Cornell students spend at least $4 million dollars on goods and services in Tompkins County.  In a year, 21,000 Cornell students put an estimated $221 million dollars into the local economy.  Cornell also estimates that visitors to campus spend $ 75 million dollars a year in the area, much of which happens during graduation and move-in weekends.  As of yet, Cornell has not canceled graduation.  

Ithaca College is saying that its spring break is being extended by one week, to Friday, March 20.  After that, students will be attending classes using a remote method of instruction until Friday, April 3rd.  IC students may be able to return to campus after that date, but the college says that it is an evolving issue. According to the school, all Spring athletic competitions have also been canceled for the rest of the school year.

Wegmans also announced today that they are reducing their hours in stores across New York state to allow for extra cleaning and restocking, according to the Ithaca Voice. Wegmans is typically open 24-hours a day. Now, the store will be open from 6 a.m. to midnight.  It is unclear when they will return to their regular hours.

New York state is now forbidding visitors to nursing homes.  According to the Auburn Citizen, Governor Andrew Cuomo said yesterday that the prohibition is to protect older New Yorkers from contracting the illness.

Other measures include requiring nursing home staff to wear masks, the monitoring of employees for symptoms, and the exclusion of all non-medical personnel in the facilities. According to the Center for Disease Control, older adults are among the groups at a higher risk from getting seriously ill from the novel coronavirus. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also announced this afternoon that the state now has authority from the FDA to conduct Coronavirus testing at 28 labs across the state. He wrote on Twitter that will allow for testing of about 6,000 people per day starting next week.

Contributing writing by WRFI News Volunteers Ed von Aderkas and Esther Racoosin.