Coronavirus Update, April 21, 2020

It was announced at a mid-morning press conference Tuesday by New York Governor Cuomo that elective surgeries and treatments could resume in upstate hospitals that aren’t seeing a significant risk of a COVID-19 surge. According to Governor Cuomo, hospitals will be able to resume performing elective outpatient treatments if the hospital capacity is over 25% for the county, and if there have been fewer than 10 new hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in the county over the past 10 days. Patients are seeking elective outpatient procedures must test negative for COVID-19. 

The Governor has also announced that New York will reopen on a “regional approach” based on the facts specific to that county and region. Former Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy will volunteer as a special advisor to coordinate the Finger Lakes' public health.

The Governor later met with President Trump in D.C. to discuss testing. This comes as the U.S. Senate and formalized a $484 billion relief package deal that would dole out funds for hospitals and COVID-19 testing, and replenish the small business loan program, reports the New York Times. 

As of Tuesday New York State has over 251,000 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 only 9 positive cases have been detected in the county, and all have recovered. 242 people have been tested in total.  There are 123 confirmed cases of COVID-19 In Tompkins County. According to the county health department, 94 of those cases have since seen resolved symptoms. Over 2900 people have been tested in total.

Cayuga Medical Center, or CMC, confirmed Tuesday that about 200 full-time employees have chosen to take a voluntary furlough, the Ithaca Times reports. CMC administration indicates that the furloughs are temporary. Following Governor Cuomo’s announcement this morning that some upstate hospitals would soon be able to resume performing elective surgeries,  CMC spokesperson John Turner told the Ithaca Times that given the low COVID-19 caseload, it is possible that CMC will be able to resume elective procedures.

The New York State on PAUSE, enacted by Governor Cuomo on March 22, caused hospitals to cancel all elective surgeries, erasing a major source of income. Dr. Martin Stallone, CEO of Cayuga Health Systems, says that since the PAUSE was enacted, many hospital staff were re-assigned.  Many staff members were moved to their mobile testing facility at the Shops at Ithaca Mall, and about 50 staff members traveled to work in overburdened hospitals in New York City.

In addition to the staff furloughs, the hospital system has moved to curtail the salaries of senior administrators and cut expenses.  Employees who chose to be furloughed will be able to retain their health insurance, file for state unemployment payments and receive a stipend when they return to work.

Cayuga Health has launched a mobile COVID-19 testing unit to local nursing homes to test those who are most vulnerable to complications from the virus, the Odessa File reports.

On Monday, Cayuga Health personnel working in their mobile testing unit took test samples from residents of Schuyler County Seneca View Skilled Nursing Facility.  On Friday, the mobile testing team responded to a request for COVID-19 testing of staff and residents of Bridges Cornell Heights, an assisted-living residence for seniors in Ithaca.

Rebecca Gould is the President of Schuyler Hospital.  She told the Odessa File that the screening at Seneca View was done in order to insure the continued safety of both residents and staff.  As of yet, no one at the facility has tested positive.

Dr. Martin Stallone, CEO of Cayuga Health, says that the mobile testing unit makes it possible for residents and staff at a nursing home facility to get tested and receive results quickly.  He adds that new state guidelines permit asymptomatic caregivers to return to work while waiting for their results, so the mobile testing service is even more essential.

Cayuga Health also offers a drive-through testing service in the parking lot at the Shops at Ithaca Mall.  More information is available at

A City of Ithaca hiring freeze has delayed the hiring of a new Director of Sustainability, the Ithaca Voice reports.  The city had originally planned to have the position filled by early May. 

In a statement, City Hall adds that its inability to fill the Director of Sustainability position would also defer its development of Green New Deal policies.

The city’s plans for a Green New Deal, detailed in the current budget, calls for the city to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, with 100 percent of government operations using renewable electricity in that year. 

The funding for the planning of the Green New Deal was going to come from a state grant for $100,000 plus another $ 100,000 allocation from the city.  Now, strains on state and local budgets due to the COVID-19 pandemic put those plans into question.

Residents of the City of Ithaca and surrounding areas that are practicing physical distancing can connect with local businesses using a new website, the Ithaca Voice reports. 

“We are Resilient” is a new, crowdsourced data base that highlights local businesses that are offering services following the state shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  These are businesses that have adjusted their business model so that customers can source products and services via no-contact mechanisms.

The We are Resilient database is hosted on multiple sites, including the Ithaca Voice website.  It was set up by Tom Knipe, the city Deputy Director of Economic Development , and Ruth Aslanis and Melanie Bruce from the city’s geographic information systems program. 

Businesses can submit their information to the We Are Resilient dashboard, and will be listed by alphabetical order and type of service.  Non-profits are also invited to submit their information on how local residents can donate funds or access services during the local shutdown.

To learn more, visit

The Sciencenter has been putting on virtual programming to keep the community engaged and connected as social distancing restrictions keep us apart. According to the Ithaca Voice, this week’s programs will celebrate Earth Week with a variety of virtual, Earth-themed activities.

Each morning this week, Sciencenter educators will host live Zoom activities all focused on sustainability and Earth science content. The Sciencenter’s Curator of Live Exhibits will also take the public through virtual tours of the Animal Room on Thursday, April 23 at 2 p.m. These informational, virtual, meet and greets with the Sciencenter animals will be live-streamed on the Sciencenter’s Youtube channel. The link to those zoom programs and more information can be found at

Get Your GreenBack Tompkins and a team of partners, including Building Bridges, Southside Community Center, and Sunrise Ithaca are hosting an online Earth Day program tomorrow, Wednesday, April 22nd, from 2 to 6 pm.

Fifty local performers and presenters will observe the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with a program called “Connection, Solidarity, Action”. 

The event will be screened live on the Get Your Greenback Tompkins Facebook site.  Listeners can also tune in via a Zoom link that can be found at their website,

Contributing writing by WRFI News Volunteer Esther Racoosin, Anna Lamb, and News Director Michayla Savitt