Coronavirus Update, April 17, 2020

As of Friday night, a new law from Governor Cuomo requires all New Yorkers will be required to wear a mask or face covering when they go out in public, in situations where social distancing can’t be honored. That includes residents who choose to utilize public transportation such as TCAT. Beginning at 8pm today, all riders must wear a mask or covering that goes over the nose and mouth. Individuals who cannot cover their faces due to medical reasons and children two years old and younger according to a press release Friday from TCAT General Manager Scot Vanderpool.

At New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily press conference Friday, it was announced that the Governor will issue an order to coordinate New York’s labs to coordinate with the State Department of Health to ramp up testing. This includes over 300 labs and hospitals in the state. Cuomo has also continued his calls on the federal government asking they provide funding without restriction to the states to help stabilize the economy and allow them to begin reopening the economy.

As of today New York State has nearly 230,000 cases of the novel coronavirus, according to the state department of health. There are no new confirmed cases of the virus in Schuyler County, and according to health department officials the caseload stands at 9, with 8 cases having recovered. As of the time of this broadcast there are 119 confirmed cases of COVID-19 In Tompkins County. According to the county health department, 93 of those cases have since seen resolved symptoms. 2600 people have been tested in total.

New York state will join Massachusetts in alerting residents that may have been exposed to a person who has coronavirus, and asking those residents to isolate themselves and get tested for the virus. The process also known as “contact tracing” will require what Governor Cuomo described as an “army” of people to join the mission.

According to the Albany Times-Union, contract tracing was used at the beginning of the outbreak in New York. However, as the state’s caseload increased, state and local health offices couldn’t keep up with the numbers. It has continued in areas of New York such as Albany. Only 2200 investigative specialists for the disease are currently employed throughout the nation, and research by Johns Hopkins University says 100,000 contract tracing experts are needed to tackle the current numbers.

U.S. Congress is still considering drafts of the next COVID-19 legislation and it’s currently unclear whether the $3.6 billion needed for contact tracing will be included.

New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Antonio Delgado, the congressman for New York’s 19th District, say that the federal bills to provide COVID-19 relief currently will not do enough for rural areas. 

According to WSKG, Congressman Delgado says that the CARES Act did not give easy access to funding for areas with fewer than 500,000 people. Senator Gillibrand echoes concerns that rural communities are being left out. She notes in the first three bills related to COVID relief, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, quote, “wrote in giveaways to favorite companies and favorite sectors of the economy,” end quote.

Both Delgado and Gillibrand say new federal COVID-19 relief funding should be more like the bill Gillibrand proposed last year called the Rebuilding Rural America Act, which includes multi-year community block grants. In addition, Gillibrand wants the next package to have $500 billion dollars earmarked for small businesses, hospitals, and local areas.

New York Attorney General Letitia James says she has been working with companies that register domain names to remove web sites promoting coronavirus-related scams. According to a press release, the Office of the Attorney General has removed over 20 websites. Some of the sites sold what they claimed to be home-testing kits and remedies for COVID-19 that have not been approved by the FDA. Other sites collected donations for fake charities. One site tricked people into providing personal information by appearing to be the web site of a New York hospital that does not exist.

In addition, Craigslist received a letter from Attorney General James in March. The letter calls the site to remove posts involved in price gouging or that sold COVID-19 tests or items that were fraudulently claimed to provide immunity to the coronavirus.

Attorney General James says people who are scammed by a COVID-19-related website should report it to the Office of the Attorney General’s Bureau of Internet and Technology online at 

A local organization has created an Emergency Arts Relief Fund to help artists in the area hit hard by the loss of income due to the outbreak of COVID 19. 

The Community Arts Partnership says that they are able to offer awards of 50 to 250 dollars to Tompkins County artists who have experienced lost income from the postponement and cancellation of events or performances. According to the community announcement on the Ithaca Voice, the organization was able to fund this due to the donation of $1800 from four anonymous donors. The full guidelines for eligibility as well as the application form can be found on their website, The deadline for applying is this monday, April 20th at 5pm.

Cayuga Medical Center is calling on the public for donations of medical supplies and homemade masks for staff, and electronic tablets for patients to speak with their loved ones. CMC is in need of homemade masks, and essential supplies include N95 masks, procedural masks, level 3 surgical masks, latex free gloves, wipes and hand sanitizer. CMC began collecting donations in early April, and around 150 tablets are needed to meet the project’s goals. Devices must have a front-facing camera and should be dropped off in a ziplock bag, with a power cord if at all possible.

According to the Cornell Sun, people can volunteer at the medical center’s on-site mask making event at Bartels Hall. Volunteers have sewn over 3,000 masks for the medical center. All donated homemade masks are washed and sanitized on-site. Anyone interested in volunteering can email [email protected].

Tompkins County Recycling and Materials Management is asking residents to put cardboard in a recycling bin instead of stacking it to the side, so recycling collectors can touch fewer surfaces on the job. Even though COVID-19 mainly spreads by person to person contact, surface transmission is also possible. Recycling workers are outfitted with protective gear to protect them from the virus.

According to the Ithaca Voice, the Tompkins County Recycling and Materials Management also announced that residents could disinfect their recycling bins before leaving them outside for the workers.

Contributing writing from WRFI News Volunteer Pamela Tan and News intern Christian Maitre