Coronavirus Update, April 24, 2020

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that any registered voter in New York who wishes to vote via absentee ballot this June will be allowed to request one. Under normal circumstances, a voter would have to go to the local Board of Elections. However, under the executive order, the new plan will allow residents to avoid further exposure to COVID-19 by the state automatically mailing every New Yorker a postage-paid application for an absentee ballot. According to the Times-Union, the state Board of Elections is determining whether they should cancel the presidential primary in June, and allow other races to continue. As of now, polls will remain open.

Governor Cuomo also noted today that New York state revenues are estimated to decline by $13.3 billion, or a 14% fall from the Executive Budget predicted. This news comes amid the Congressional Budget Office’s announcement today that it expects the federal budget deficit to hit $3.7 trillion for the 2020 fiscal year. Additionally, according to the New York Times the office predicts the economy to shrink by 5.6% through this year, ending 2020 with unemployment rates hitting almost 12%. The latest projections come as the president signs a new $484 billion relief bill into law. The bill replenishes a fund for small businesses hit hard by the pandemic shutdowns, and provides funding for hospitals and more COVID-19 testing. However, the latest bill contains no funding for state governments.

The State of New York has launched new online and text services to help victims of domestic abuse get help during this epidemic. the State says that the new services would assist people who were isolated with their abusers to get help from the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence more efficiently than they could on the phone line. As written in the press release, making a phone call to get help or accessing services may be impossible for a victim because their abuser can easily monitor their calls. 

The new services are in reaction to a significant uptick in reports of domestic violence; according to the state, calls to the domestic violence hotline are up 30% compared with April of last year. The number of calls increased 18% from February to March. 

New Yorkers seeking help can text 844-997-2121 or reach a professional at the new website at These services are available 24/7. 

As of Friday New York State has over 271,000 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. 390 people have been tested in total.  There were no new confirmed cases of COVID-19 In Tompkins County today, and the total stands at 129. According to the county health department, 94 of those cases have seen resolved symptoms. Over 3000 people have been tested in total.

The Food Bank of the Southern Tier is reporting a huge increase not just in the numbers of people using their service, but also in deliveries of food in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. The CEO of the food bank, Natasha Thompson, says that in March 2020 they distributed twice as much food as they did in March 2019. She told WSKG News that the crisis was highlighting problems that already existed in the Southern Tier namely transportation.

While the agency is experiencing a rise in demand, it is also reporting a drop in donations, attributed to grocery stories having less supplies to give to the food bank. 

This week, the Tompkins County Health Department and volunteers from the community began offering free cloth facial masks to the essential service workers in the County. According to the Ithaca Voice, the Health Department, partnered with the Ithaca ReUse Center, issued a call earlier this week for volunteers with sewing experience to help make masks. Ten volunteers showed up on day one, many with their own sewing machines. 

The demand for face masks has increased since Governor Cuomo issued an executive order requiring people to cover their faces when going out in public, in situations where social distancing is not possible.

Cornell University is the first Ivy League school to suspend standardized testing requirements for 2020 and 2021 applicants, the Cornell Daily Sun reports. This is a temporary suspension due to SAT and ACT cancellations caused by the pandemic. 

The Cornell University Undergraduate Admissions Office states that standardized test scores could still be important to applicants who live near a school that is still offering testing this year, or if a student has not had a significant loss in income from household providers. 

For those who are unable to submit test scores, more emphasis will be placed on extracurricular activities, transcripts, essays and letters of recommendation. Athletes still need to comply with the Ivy League’s testing requirements. 

Contributing writing by WRFI News Volunteers Ed von Aderkas, Pamela Tan, and Tessie Devlin