It was announced Friday at Governor Andrew Cuomo’s press briefing that New York State is increasing antibody testing, which will be key in plans to reopen the economy. Governor Cuomo says that New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey have formed a regional testing partnership in an effort to bring more testing to residents. Cuomo also offered to partner with the US government to continue conducting mass antibody testing.

New York State will provide $200 million in emergency food assistance to households enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Over 700,000 low income households are enrolled in the program.

Additionally, the Governor and New York’s Congress is crafting a COVID-19 Heroes Compensation Fund for health care and other frontline workers, along with their families, who were infected with the virus.

As of Friday, New York State now has over 170,000 cases of the novel coronavirus, according to the state department of health. There are 7 confirmed cases of the virus in Schuyler County. In Tompkins County, there are 112 confirmed cases of COVID-19. According to the county health department, 82 of those cases have since seen resolved symptoms. In total, Tompkins County has conducted nearly 2300 tests for the virus.

It was announced Friday morning by Cayuga Health System that a transfer patient sent from New York City has passed away from the novel coronavirus. According to the Ithaca Times, the person was one of two patients who were transferred to Cayuga Medical Center earlier this week. In a statement Dr. Martin Stallone, CEO of Cayuga Health, expressed his condolences for the family of the victim, and noted that the team has trained extensively for treating patients with the virus, and remains prepared to treat all patients.

Tompkins County leads the Central New York region on a “social distancing scoreboard”, according to the Ithaca Voice.  The tech company Unacast has collected cell phone data to establish how seriously Americans are taking social distancing. The data measures reductions in both distance travelled and visits to non-essential venues when compared to data prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Tompkins County got an A- ranking due to a 55-70% decrease in average mobility and a 70% decrease in non-essential visits. It is the only county in Central New York to receive a score in the A range. The county believes the positive ranking is due to their messaging efforts through social media, their website and local media. 

The 2020 Ithaca Fourth of July Fireworks show in Ithaca has been canceled. According to the Ithaca Times, the Rotary Club of Ithaca who has presented the annual fireworks event for the past few years, would have had to begin raising money for the fireworks now. The limitations on social gatherings due to the coronavirus were also a consideration. Mayor Svante Myrick says he supports the Rotary’s decision to concentrate their fundraising on other pressing things at this time. 

New York leads the nation in COVID-19 cases and unemployment claims -- 810,000 claims have been filed since March 9.

With help from Google, New York state has launched a new and improved website to file for unemployment, according to Newyorkupstate. The former website had repeatedly crashed due to overload. The new one is designed to help an unprecedented number of New Yorkers who have lost their jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic by making the process faster and easier. 

Changes include fewer questions, the ability to save an incomplete application, improved device functionality, and eliminating the need for an applicant to call the department of labor while filing for unemployment. If necessary, an operator will call the applicant back within 72 hours after claim submission. 

More information can be found at labor.ny.gov/unemploymentassistance.shtm.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo predicts a second wave of coronavirus cases if the current restrictions on everyday life are lifted, according to Politico. Emerging evidence shows that the US may not reach the worst-case scenarios originally predicted. Cuomo attributes the lower numbers to the public’s cooperation with the social distancing efforts mandated by the government.

Yesterday, New York state recorded 800 coronavirus-related deaths  -  its third consecutive day of rising fatalities. On the same day, President Trump announced his desire to see parts of the country return to normal business operations by May. 

Cuomo says widespread testing of new cases as well as antibody testing is necessary before social restrictions can be lifted. The US has been behind in testing from the beginning of the outbreak, and there is little evidence it will increase to the levels needed to satisfy Trump’s timeline.

After ending in-person classes three weeks ago, Cornell started up online instruction this past Monday. According to the Cornell Chronicle, on Day 1 of these virtual classes, a total of 89,000 attendees participated in 6,600 sessions held through the Zoom video conferencing service. According to Julia Thom-Levy, Cornell’s vice provost for academic innovation, this was the first time for many of the teachers to deliver instruction virtually.  

To prepare for launching online classes this week, The Center for Teaching Innovation and Cornell Information Technology, or CIT, collaborated with other campus partners to offer support. This included areas such as technology and in ways to engage students through an online platform. CIT worked to increase security for Cornell’s use of Zoom after other institutions’ Zoom sessions were hacked. In addition, some instructors of large classes have used online breakout rooms, which have allowed students to connect with each other during virtual classes.

However, some issues with online instruction are still being addressed. Students have had to access Cornell’s online learning from around the world. They have voiced concerns about how being in different time zones outside of Eastern Time has made it challenging to participate in live classes, which could unfairly impact the grades they receive. 

Cinemapolis, Ithaca’s independent movie theatre, is introducing a new at-home viewing option program.  The theatre is working with independent film distributors to facilitate online rentals of current first-run releases, the Ithaca Voice reports. 

The downtown Ithaca movie theatre closed its doors to the public following New York Governor Cuomo’s PAUSE executive order, which took effect on March 22.  Cuomo recently announced that non-essential businesses must remain closed until at least April 29. 

In response, Executive Director of Cinemapolis, Brett Bossard, has decided to promote in-home cinema options.  When at-home viewers rent films from distributors such as Film Movement, Kino Lorber, Magnolia Films and Oscilloscope Laboratories, a portion of the rental cost will go back to Cinemapolis. 

Starting today, viewers can select from four films at cinemapolis.org.

Full disclosure, Cinemapolis is an underwriter of WRFI Community Radio.

Contributing writing by WRFI News volunteers Susan Fortson, Pamela Tan, and Esther Racoosin