Coronavirus Update, March 19, 2020

There are no new confirmed cases of coronavirus, or COVID-19 in Tompkins county, so the total number of cases stands at 6. However, 224 test results are currently pending. New York State has reached over 4,000 total cases, according to the state Health Department. This comes as over 7,500 New Yorkers were tested for COVID-19 yesterday, with testing ramping up state-wide.

Housing advocates are calling on state lawmakers to suspend rent, mortgage, and utility payments, as well as rehouse every homeless person in the state amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Times Union.

Advocates emphasize the healthcare danger of keeping people in tightly packed homeless shelters where the virus could spread rapidly. They want lawmakers to provide safe, quality housing for everyone during the pandemic.

Thus far in response to the pandemic, the state has called on courts to suspend all evictions and eviction proceedings; they are working with utility companies to keep services connected, and they are floating a relief package for small businesses and employees which includes immediate relief funds, tax credits, zero percent interest loans, suspending regulatory fees, and other initiatives.

Additionally, on Thursday Governor Cuomo announced that New York will direct that mortgage payments be waived for 90 days based on financial hardship, with no late fees or negative impact on one’s credit score.

Gig-economy workers in New York state are demanding they be given the same kind of job protections and financial support offered to other workers during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Politico.

On Tuesday, state lawmakers passed legislation guaranteeing sick leave - possibly paid - and job protection to any private or public sector employee quarantined during the pandemic. There is no mention of gig-economy workers in the law. Gig-economy workers  include taxi, uber and lyft drivers, app-based or “low-paid” independent contractors, freelance journalists, and other workers. Many of these workers have seen a significant drop in business, with the taxi industry reporting a 75-80% decline in revenue. Advocates for gig-economy workers are demanding these workers also have access to state-mandated sick leave and unemployment insurance.

Meanwhile, today Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that 75% of the non-essential workforce must work from home to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Tompkins County has announced new measures for local child care for essential health care and emergency personnel, following the closure of daycare centers. The county announced in a press release this afternoon that the Child Development Council will open two licensed daycare centers, and will reduce their class sizes by half. Registered family child care and licensed group family child care have been surveyed for openings and willingness to enroll additional children. Additionally, The Child Development Council is in communication with teachers who are willing to provide independent contracting or “nanny” services in their home or in the children’s home.

With restaurants across New York shutting down this week, two local eateries have donated their excess Food to the New Roots Farm-to-School Program. According to a New Roots press release, downtown Ithaca eateries Viva Taqueria and Pasta Vitto made the offer after hearing  that New Roots would provide the farm to school meals free of charge to any local youth. This comes following the closure of schools in Tompkins County this week due to the risk of COVID-19. free meals distributed every weekday from 12 to 1 p.m. on the front porch of New Roots at the Clinton House, 116 North Cayuga St., Ithaca. Parents who need a free meal for their children can request delivery or an alternative pickup location by emailing

Also, the Ithaca Farmers Market has announced that it will reopen this weekend and next at its outdoor pavilion at Steamboat Landing. They note in a press release that they are moving from their indoor Triphammer Marketplace location rather than closing because they are a notable grocery option for community members.

The market will open this Saturday 10:30am-2pm and next at 545 3rd Street in Ithaca. The Tompkins County Health Department has granted the market permission to hold the event. However, vendors will be spaced out throughout the pavilion, and are encouraged to ramp up cleaning routines as well.

April market plans have yet to be finalized.

Contributing writing by WRFI News Volunteer Susan Fortson