A new COVID-19 contact tracing program was announced Wednesday by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. The new program, with $10.5 million monetary support on top of technical support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, will build an online training program for contact tracers. According to a press release it will serve as a model that could be replicated across the United States. Other countries such as South Korea, Singapore, and Germany have used contact tracing effectively to fight the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Governor Cuomo says that his meeting Tuesday with President Trump in D.C. was “productive”. According to WSKG, the Governor notes that Trump has committed to get more COVID-19 testing materials from companies overseas. Dwindling supplies of testing kits has been a point of contention between New York’s Governor and the President. Regarding whether Trump will initiate the Defense Production Act to produce more testing materials, Cuomo says that they “did not talk through how he’s going to do his end of the operation." The pair also decided during yesterday’s meeting that the US Navy ship USNS Comfort will leave New York City as the spread of coronavirus cases continue to decline.

As of Wednesday New York State has over 257,000 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. 356 people have been tested in total.  There are 124 confirmed cases of COVID-19 In Tompkins County. According to the county health department, 94 of those cases have since seen resolved symptoms. Close to 3,000 people have been tested in total.

This week, a number of annual local summer festivals were cancelled amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

It was announced Wednesday morning that the Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance would be postponing its 30th Anniversary Celebration and Culture Camp until next year. Grassroots organizers write in their announcement that the health and safety of the attendees, vendors, staff, and performers is their main consideration. Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa is quoted in the memo noting that the Health Department supports the proactive decision, as it falls in line with current guidance to cancel large gatherings that could increase the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Organizers say that they are turning to the community for their support of the organization as the situation has caused them to lay off staff and make budget cuts.

Festival admission tickets purchased for the 2020 festival can be used for any future Grassroots event. Anyone looking to get money back on their ticket will have to do so through a ticket trade group. The full letter and video to the community can be found at the website grassrootsfest.org.

Ithaca Reggae fest organizers also announced that they would be postponing the 2020 festival, set to take place June 20th, to June 2021. They made the announcement yesterday on their website and social media. This would have been the fourth annual Reggae Festival in Ithaca. Tickets for this year’s event will be refunded at the point of purchase.

Additionally, the would-be 40th annual Watkins Glen Italian American Festival which was supposed to take place on August 7 and 8 at Clute Park has been canceled due to the pandemic. According to the Odessa File, festival organizers say they hope next year’s festival will be “the best one ever,”

The last cancellation to note is the Watkins Glen Waterfront Festival, according to the Observer-Review The event, slated for June 20, has been held for over 25 years. The waterfront festival committee says the decision was made last week with the board of directors for Watkins Glen Promotions. Visit www.watkinsglen.com for more information.

A number of Ithaca organizations are joining forces to offer free car rides in a sanitized vehicle to residents who need to be tested for COVID-19 at the Cayuga Health Sampling Site. Agencies helping with the new efforts are the United Way of Tompkins County, Food Bank of the Southern Tier, Human Services Coalition, Tompkins County Health Department, TCAT, Center for Community Transportation and Way2Go. Anyone who needs a COVID-19 test must register for testing at the website cayugahealth.org or by calling 607-319-5708. To secure a ride, call 2-1-1 between 8:30am and 5:00pm to book a ride with ASAP Cab Company.

According to a press release, the organizations have also collaborated to provide emergency food deliveries. Requests should be made between 8:30am and 5pm, and can be done by calling 2-1-1. Emergency food requests are being directed to the United Way of Tompkins County, which is organizing deliveries from the food hub through transportation provider Gadabout.

Volunteers who are available to deliver goods by bicycle can be set up with a bike delivery rig if needed. More information on volunteering can be found at website bikewalktompkins.org/covid-19.

Visit way2go.org for more information about the new transportation program.

The Ithaca Public Education Initiative announced it’s first recipients of the new Situational Grants program. The grant will provide short term funding for teachers and staff of the Ithaca City School District to use on supplies, projects and programs related to distance learning.

Joyce Putnam, IPEI’s grant chair, notes, “these grants will support the district and individual classes as ICSD responds to the continuing limitations placed on ‘school as usual’ in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.”

According to a press release, the IPEI grants will give $1900 dollars to fund five projects during the first round of grants. Four projects are at Ithaca High School and one is at Enfield Elementary School.

More information and application forms can be found at ipei.org.

And a Cornell analysis has shown that rural upstate counties in New York will become the state’s most vulnerable counties if they experience a localized outbreak. Researchers from the Cornell Population Center and the Cornell Program on Applied Demographics ranked each county based on various risk factors.

According to the Cornell Chronicle, these include percentages of residents who are 80 years of age and older, percentage of people who are disabled; live in group facilities like nursing homes, dormitories or jails. Additionally, they accounted for the percentage of people who live with their grandparents.

Based on these risk factors the state’s most vulnerable county is Hamilton in the Adirondacks. Hamilton is followed by Essex, Otsego, St. Lawrence and Allegany counties.

Contributing writing by WRFI News Intern Christian Maitre