Governor Andrew Cuomo has detailed guidelines for a “phased” plan to reopen the state — region by region. The Governor made his announcement at a press briefing held Tuesday at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse. The first detail is that once a region sees a two-week decline in the COVID-19 hospitalization rate, they may start reopening the area. Phase one of reopening each region will include construction and manufacturing functions deemed “low-risk”, and the second phase will prioritize businesses considered “more essential” with low risks of infection in the workspace and customers, followed by businesses deemed “less essential” or that present an increased risk of spreading the virus. Additionally, regions will not be able to open businesses or attractions that might draw a big number of visitors from out of town.

Another point of the phased reopening of New York includes a mandate that every business must have a plan to protect its workers and customers to lower the risk of infection in the space. Each region must also have at least 30% of hospital beds and ICU beds available once elective surgeries begin again. The Governor also says that regions must frequently test frontline and essential workers for COVID-19, and have enough testing sites to accommodate the regional population.  Other measures in the “phased plan” guidelines for reopening New York State include arrangements for people who have COVID-19 and cannot self-isolate, a regional coordination of schools and transportation, in addition to reimagining telemedicine and tele-education.

A “New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Board” was also created to help in re-opening New York. The board includes over a hundred business, community, and civic leaders such as Cornell university President Martha Pollack, and TC3 President Orinthia Montague.

As of Tuesday New York State has over 295,000 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 all cases having recovered. 426 people have been tested in total. In Tompkins County, over the weekend the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased to 130, and that number remains the same. According to the Tompkins county health department, 6 people are currently hospitalized for COVID-19. 97 of the positive cases have seen resolved symptoms, and over 3200 people have been tested in total.

Staff and faculty at Ithaca College have been informed of a mass number of furloughs, as the pandemic continues to shake up the school’s regular operations.

According to the Ithaca Times, earlier Tuesday IC officials announced that there have been 167 college employees furloughed, and many other employees have moved to take a so-called “voluntary reduction” in opportunities offered up by the school. Of those employees, 76 have opted for a retirement incentive, 15 have chosen “phased retirement”, 17 have selected an hours for effort reduction option, and 19 have selected voluntary staff reduction. In total, so far there is an over 15% reduction of the college workforce, according to IC Vice President of Human Resources and Planning Hayley Harris. She tells the Ithaca Times that the school hopes to bring back many of the employees who’ve been involuntarily furloughed.

As of now, it’s unclear if more staff cuts will come as IC school officials say the notifications are ongoing. 

City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick has issued a statement about the plan to reduce city staff amid the pandemic. The Mayor made the announcement in a Facebook live post earlier today. As of now, the Mayor’s plan is to reduce city staffing by over 130 positions that will hopefully save Ithaca around $5.4 million through the rest of 2020. 

According to the Ithaca Voice, in the announcement Mayor Myrick says he’s proposing a “temporary furlough” of 87 employees that spans every city department. The Mayor is also proposing suspending the hiring of 46.5 unfilled positions originally budgeted for. The city hopes for the furloughs to be temporary, but getting those people back on the workforce depends on whether city revenue picks up again -- and if smaller counties and municipalities such as Tompkins gets money from the Federal Government. A previous report by the Ithaca Voice indicates that the City of Ithaca could see $4 million to $13 million less revenue in the remainder of the year, due to the pandemic.

The Mayor’s plan is subject to review by Ithaca’s Common Council, who will go over the details at a special closed meeting being held tomorrow night. A link to submit public comment to that meeting can be found here.

Volunteers assisting the Cornell Farmworker Program have sewn more than 1400 face masks for the 55,000 farm workers across NY state, according to the Cornell Chronicle. Many of these essential workers live in close quarters and work side by side to help sustain the local and global food supply.

Faculty, staff, students and community volunteers associated with the program help sew and coordinate the delivery and distribution of the masks. The Cornell Farmworker Program is also working with Finger Lakes Community Health to offer information about COVID-19 via a weekly webinar in both English and Spanish. Farmworkers are encouraged to submit questions. The outreach program also offers health updates via text, links to videos and other useful information, and materials in indigenous languages.

Anyone interested in making masks or getting involved can email farmworkers@cornell.edu.

Lively Run Dairy, a goat and cow cheese producer on Cayuga Lake, is taking a waste-not want-not approach to charity in the face of COVID-19 –– making cheese from the surplus milk that would otherwise be dumped and donating it to local food banks.

The Ithaca Voice reports that so far, they are buying milk from Hidden Pastures Goat Dairy, owned by Andrew and Blake Place, who are currently dumping milk because they lost their market. The first round of deliveries were made to Interlaken Food Pantry, Ovid Food Pantry, and the Friendship Donation Network Friday.

The effort is funded entirely through donations. Lively Run has not been immune to the negative economic impacts the pandemic has created, losing half their business overnight when restaurants closed. However, all the money goes towards acquiring surplus milk and to cover production costs of the cheese. Donations to the campaign in excess of production costs are being donated to food banks.

In other dairy-related news, this year's Dryden Dairy Day has been cancelled due to the pandemic, according to the Ithaca Times.

In place of the annual celebration, Dryden Dairy Day is partnering with Trinity Valley Milk and Dryden Central School District to supply local milk for the school food program –– already having  donated over 400 gallons.

A $300 scholarship is also available for a graduating senior in the Dryden School District who has been accepted to a two- or four-year college to study an area of agriculture. Applications are available online at drydendairyday.org

The planning committee for Dairy Day is also currently coordinating with village officials for a small touring parade through the village on Saturday, June 13th. A parade route and estimated times will be posted on the dairy day site the week of May 25th.

Contributing writing by WRFI News Team volunteers Anna Lamb and Susan Fortson