Coronavirus Update, March 18, 2020

As of the time of broadcast (6PM) there are 6 confirmed cases of coronavirus, or COVID-19 in  Tompkins county. There are zero confirmed cases in Schuyler County. New York State has reached over 2300 total cases, according to the state Health Department.

Governor Cuomo will issue an Executive Order directing non-essential businesses to implement work from home policies effective Friday. In NY, PA, CT, and NJ, all indoor portions of retail shopping malls, amusement parks and bowling alleys will temporarily close as of tomorrow at 8PM.

The New York Times is reporting that the Senate approved the relief package to provide sick leave, unemployment benefits, free coronavirus testing, and food and medical aid to people impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. It now moves to the president’s desk for authorization.

New York’s Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks has issued a statewide suspension of evictions to combat the spread of COVID-19, reports the Albany Times-Union. The suspension, which includes pending evictions, went into effect on Monday and will continue until further notice.

The decision could reduce the spread of the virus by preventing mass gatherings in courtrooms that would be present for eviction cases. It also addresses concerns that workers may be unable to afford their rent or mortgages after Governor Cuomo’s decision to close certain businesses statewide.

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he does not plan to quarantine any cities in New York State, including New York City, to halt the spread of COVID-19, reports the Albany Times-Union. Cuomo says the governor is the only person with the authority to order a quarantine, which would require people to stay indoors except for trips to grocery stores, pharmacies and places with other essential resources.

Cuomo clarified that the containment zone in New Rochelle, located in Westchester County, New York, is different from a mass quarantine, as residents are still able to travel in and out of the area.

Governor Cuomo also says the number of COVID-19 cases is expected to peak in 45 days, during late April or early May.

The federal government will be sending a hospital ship to the New York Harbor. The USNS Comfort has about 1,000 rooms on it.

TCAT is announcing a second round of cuts to their bus service in response to drops in ridership.

Starting tomorrow, routes 11N, 83, 83W and 93 are out of operation. They also said that additional cuts to frequency of service will be made to other routes as well. No change will be made to the following routes: 11S, 14, 14S, 40, 41, 53, 65, 74, 75, 77 and 81.

TCAT made the first cuts on Monday, which included the closure of the indoor waiting area at Green Street.

Foodnet Meals on Wheels has announced that it will be providing thousands of frozen meals to seniors around Tompkins County. Secured through emergency funding from the United Way of Tompkins County, the nearly 9 thousand meals will help ensure Foodnet’s clients will have food in the event of any outbreak-related service interruption.

Foodnet delivers hot meals and other nutrition services for older adults and other people in need in Tompkins County. According to the Executive director of Foodnet, Jessica Gosa, she was concerned that should anyone in the Foodnet community test positive for Covid 19, there would be a service disruption to her clients, 60% of whom are considered frail and disabled.

At Tuesday night’s meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature, legislators discussed the Corona virus crisis, even while practicing physical distancing in the meeting room. Addressing Governor Cuomo's order to reduce municipal workforces by 50% soon, County Administrator James Molina reported that the county has achieved a 60% reduction.  According to a county press release, he also commented that the impact of the crisis on the County budget cannot yet be determined. In his response to requests for more information about positive COVID-19 cases, Public Health Director Frank Kruppa cited the need to protect the privacy of infected persons.

On another issue, the Legislature voted 10 to 4 in favor of financial support for a conference center that would be part of Ithaca's Green Street Garage development project. The support would take the form of committing 4% of the hotel room occupancy tax revenues each year until 2050.  The support would cease if the space stopped being used as a conference center.

Given Governor Cuomo's Executive Order suspending the Open Meeting laws during the COVID-19 crisis, there was no public presence at the meeting.  However, the public could submit questions and comments before the gathering.

Contributing writing by WRFI News volunteers Ed von Aderkas, J.T. Stone, and Joanne Izbicki.