Coronavirus Update, March 20, 2020

A new executive order dubbed “New York State on PAUSE” by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will make sweeping changes effective Sunday at 8pm. 

The New York Times reports that gatherings of any size deemed “Nonessential” are banned. 100% of the workforce must stay home, excluding essential services. The state classified essential businesses as the following: grocery stores and restaurants, health care providers, animal-care providers pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and banks. Additionally, laundromats and cleaners, child-care providers, auto repair, hardware stores, utilities, warehouses and distributors do not have to close. Plumbers and other contractors, transportation providers, construction companies and various kinds of manufacturers are also included. Any businesses that violate Cuomo’s order will be fined and forced to close its doors. 

In his press conference, Governor Cuomo also announced that healthy people under the age of 70 should limit outside activity to buying groceries and medicine. However, people are allowed to go outside but should practice social distancing. The Governor spoke to new restrictions dubbed “Matilda’s Law” for people over 70, those with compromised immune systems and underlying illnesses. He has urged those individuals to wear masks when in the company of others, and not visit homes with multiple people.

New York now has 7,000 cases of the novel coronavirus. This comes as testing ramps up statewide, and testing becomes free for all eligible New Yorkers as ordered by a health care provider. According to the New York Health Department, there are 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in  Tompkins county, and no cases in Schuyler County.

About two-dozen state lawmakers are calling for an initiative to quickly train new nurses aides and provide other health service providers in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Buffalo News reports that State Senator Tim Kennedy, a Buffalo area Democrat, called for the emergency training effort.  He says that New York has to do everything it can to increase the number of health care providers that would be ready to care for those who are suffering.

About 28 other Democratic State Senate members joined Kennedy in supporting the move.  They wrote a letter to Governor Cuomo saying that the state could turn to the increasing number of unemployed people to boost the healthcare system.  They also suggest that unemployed construction workers could work to help build hospital capacity.

New York State currently requires about 100 classroom hours and clinical training time to be a nurses aide.   As of 2018, there were about 88,000 nurses aides in the state. 

In response to the impact of COVID-19, Cornell University has announced modifications to their post-spring break academic calendar, according to the Cornell Daily Sun. They’re also expanding students’ pass-fail grading options and faculty advancement requirements. 

Changes to the academic calendar include: extending undergraduate classes one week to May 12, extending the final exam period to May 23, Extending the deadline to add a second seven-week course to April 14, and Giving the students an additional month to drop a course or change the grading basis of their class. The new deadline for that is April 21. 

Most notably, students may now elect a pass-fail grading option in any class rather than select classes. 

Cornell University President Martha Pollack wrote to the Cornell Community today saying that graduation will still happen, but they are not sure where or when it will take place. Ithaca College has postponed their commencement ceremony to Aug. 2. 

Cornell also announced it will consider adjustments to the faculty advancement process for those seeking reappointment, promotion or tenure due to the disruptive impact of COVID-19.

City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick has called for a local rent and mortgage freeze amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cornell Daily Sun reports. 

Myrick wrote on Twitter yesterday that he fears the COVID-19 outbreak could cause a crisis of homelessness in Ithaca.  According to a 2015 Tompkins County report, 73 percent of households in the City of Ithaca are renters. That number compares to 36.6 percent of households nationwide in 2016. 

It was announced today by Governor Andrew Cuomo that New York will implement a 90-day moratorium on evictions for residential and commercial tenants.

Homeless service workers are implementing safety procedures and looking for donations as a result of COVID-19, according to the Ithaca Times. The newly issued guidelines are intended to strengthen safety for staff and the homeless while still providing as many services as possible. 

Some of the new directives include: limited access to The Friendship Donation Center’s utilities and services to only those in need, no “hanging out” at the Center, clients who are placed in hotels must remain there, clients will be assigned a specific time to go to the Salvation Army with no provided transportation, lunches and other food will be bagged and distributed, and more.

In an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Lime bikes have been pulled from the streets of Ithaca and other areas of Tompkins County, according to The Ithaca Times. 

The company has paused operations in 24 countries due to their concerns that the bikes could contribute to the spread of COVID-19. Currently, the Lime bike app no longer displays any available bikes, although a few bikes are still scattered on the streets of Ithaca. The bikes are currently being stored in a warehouse. 

Company representatives and ithaca city officials will reconvene in 2-3 weeks for further discussion.

Local banks have announced their current available services in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Tompkins Weekly reports that most banks have closed their lobbies but are continuing to provide banking at their drive-thru windows.

Alternatives Credit Union will be remaining open for service at their walk-up teller and drive thru windows, from 9 am to 6 pm.  Their ATMs, online access banking and mobile app continue to be available. CFCU Community Credit Union is offering service at their drive-thru windows from 7 am to 6 pm weekdays and 8:30 am to 1:30 pm Saturdays.  Members may pay loans and make credit card payments at their drive thru windows. Safety deposit boxes can be accessed by appointment only.

Tompkins Trust Company, Elmira Savings Bank, Key Bank, Tioga State Bank, and Chemung Canal Trust Bank are all offering services only through their drive-up windows. Clients should check hours at the bank website or by calling the respective customer service numbers.

Contributing writing by WRFI News Volunteers Esther Racoosin and Susan Fortson