Coronavirus Update, March 23, 2020

In a press conference Monday morning, Governor Cuomo announced that he will sign an emergency order that hospitals must double their bed capacity to account for the number of people who will need treatment for COVID-19, reports the Times Union.

New York state now has over 20,000 cases of the novel coronavirus as of this afternoon. According to Governor Cuomo, this is in part because New York is conducting more coronavirus testing than any other state.

On Tuesday, New York will begin trials with two drugs that have been hailed by medical experts for being successful in treating symptoms of COVID-19. Cuomo says those medicines will be used for people in serious condition.

There are now 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tompkins county. There are no cases of the virus in Schuyler County.

The Army Corps of Engineers has started construction on four temporary hospital sites in the State. Those locations include the Javits Convention Center, locations at SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Old Westbury and the Westchester Convention Center.

FEMA begun construction on four more federal hospital facilities in the Javits Center. Each of those facilities will house 250 beds and come fully equipped and fully staffed by the federal government.

Cuomo noted during his press conference Monday that he has “no regrets” about “New York State on PAUSE” which closed all essential businesses state-wide. As of last night, the rule went into effect, per order of the Governor. The measure calls for 100% of the workforce to stay home, excluding essential services. All non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason have been temporarily banned. Department of Motor Vehicles offices are temporarily closed for in-office visits. Online transactions such as license renewals, are still available. License and permit expirations will be extended.

Over the weekend Ithaca City Schools also announced that they would be moving to only home delivery for school meals after today. In their announcement, the school notes that they are switching to delivery efforts to abide by travel and social distancing restrictions. Staff will be at meal sites today around the county, but thereafter meals will be delivered to homes of students who complete a request form. That form can be found online at, or by calling 2-1-1.

Tompkins County has provided an update to the community regarding services that are being provided to the county’s homeless population while social distancing is ongoing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Currently, people who stay at the local homeless shelter are being helped at another location. Those who get accommodations when it’s below freezing are being helped at the shelter, however if the number of people being housed exceeds more than the shelter can accommodate, those people will be sent to a different location. Additionally, Friendship Center is still providing boxed meals for people.

Staff with the Department of Social Services and other community partners have been visiting those who are experiencing homelessness to provide options for sheltering, and providing information about coronavirus.

If individuals are homeless or experiencing a housing crisis, they can call 607- 274-5644 for housing services or 607-274-5345 for cash assistance. If someone does not have access to a phone, they can go to the DSS office at 320 West Martin Luther King Jr Street where they will be met at the door and screened before being cleared to enter.

Anyone looking to help the homeless during this time can contact 607-274-5022.

The Ithaca police department has also provided the community with an update on its operational practices to minimize the spread of covid-19.

the IPD Headquarters front desk is closed, and the public is being asked not to visit the police department unless they are in life threatening danger or have no other way to contact police. IPD will still respond to high priority calls at 911, and non-emergencies may be directed to the Tompkins county dispatch  at 607-272-3245.

TCAT is implementing increased COVID-19 safety precautions by putting fares on hold for three weeks and limiting the number of riders on each bus to 20 people, reports the Ithaca Voice. The changes went into effect Friday and will last until further notice.

Eliminating fares reduces skin contact with the fare box, and aims to reduce the time passengers spend close to the drivers, who sit adjacent to the box. The limit on the number of passengers aims to increase “social-distancing,” in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Due to low ridership, TCAT reduced service last week and cut some routes. The changes are set to last until Saturday, May 23, when TCAT’s spring service ends. More information can be found on their website,

In some good news, a lab at the Cornell University Veterinary college has donated more than 600 N95 masks to health care workers at Cayuga Medical Center, reports the Ithaca Voice. This comes as supplies of medical face masks across the country become scarce due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Brian VanderVen's lab studies tuberculosis, a highly infectious disease.

In late February, national health officials asked the public to stop purchasing and hoarding masks to prevent a strain on the supply chain. The (CDC) does not recommend that the general public wear N95 respirator masks to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.

John Turner, the vice president of public relations for Cayuga Health Systems told the Voice although the hospital is not experiencing a shortage yet, they are preparing for the possibility of one.

Cayuga Medical Center is asking anyone who may have bought medical supplies in preparation for coronavirus to donate those supplies to be utilized by health care professionals.

Contributing writing by WRFI News Team volunteer Anna Lamb