Coronavirus Update, April 30, 2020

As of Thursday New York State has over 304,000 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. 448 people have been tested in total. In Tompkins County the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 stands at 132. According to the Tompkins county health department, 5 people are currently hospitalized for COVID-19. 99 of the positive cases have seen resolved symptoms, and close to 3400 people have been tested in total.

Due to predicted inclement weather with high winds, the Cayuga Health Sampling Site was closed Thursday, and is also closed Friday. To make up for lost time, the Sampling Site, located at the shops at ithaca mall, will be open on Saturday from 10am-3pm.

A new COVID-19 contact tracing pilot program will begin in the next few weeks, as announced Thursday by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. With support from former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, the program will operate through the next flu season. Under the new program, there will be 30 contact tracers per every 100,000 people. Additionally, it will implement additional tracers based on the number of projected cases per region. With support from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the State Department of health aims to get an estimated 6,400 to 17,000 tracers on board for the program.

An Ithaca-based biotech company called Rhoenix Inc. is partnering with Cayuga Health to provide same-day COVID-19 test results, according to the Ithaca Voice. Rhoenix specializes in rapid, sensitive and specific molecular testing. The FDA’s expedited emergency approval of the test allows Rhoenix to begin implementing the rapid test this week. Prior to the new Rheonix system, the Tompkins County testing turnaround time took up to 5 days. The COVID-19 test uses respiratory samples. 

The drive through coronavirus sampling site is located in portable structures at the Shops at Ithaca Mall from 10 to 3 Monday through Friday. Pre-registration at allows patients to review the screening criteria and helps to provide greater efficiency with decreased wait times. A call center is also available at 607-319-5708.

The Ithaca Common Council has approved the furloughs of 87 City employees, according to the Ithaca Times. The furloughs are seen as a difficult but necessary response to the city’s economic downturn caused by COVID-19.  In an email last week, Mayor Svante Myrick gave city employees advanced warning about the impending furloughs, stating that it would impact about 25 percent of the city’s workforce. 

Unlike layoffs, furloughs enable employees to return to their positions if they reopen, and gives them access to their healthcare plans. The furloughs could save the city about $7 million to help offset the predicted $4-$13 million deficit. 

Other measures implemented to cut city costs include suspending large equipment purchases, as well as suspending all summer programs at the Ithaca Youth Bureau and at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center.

According to WSKG news, 90% of the Ithaca Youth Bureau's staff has been furloughed, prompting the organization to cancel its summer youth programs.

Ithaca Youth Bureau director Liz Klohmann says that the staff usually reaches 400 people for summer programming. The recreation department normally offers a number of activities to people ages 5-18, such as swim lessons, camp, jobs, and college prep programs. During a normal summer, up to 1,000 people will participate in the Ithaca Youth Bureau summer programming.

The Child Development Council is using state funds from the CARES Act to extend child care scholarships to all eligible essential workers, according to the Ithaca Voice. The Council, which serves both Tompkins and Cortland Counties, provided their first round of child care scholarships through grants awarded by the United Way of Tompkins County and the Community Foundation of Tompkins County. 

The CARES Act, or Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, has allocated $163.6 million in emergency relief to be distributed to the New York state child care system. 

Any state-licensed and regulated child care provider caring for essential workers’ children is eligible to participate in the program. There are currently only two state-licensed daycare centers open in Tompkins County, and they are only allowed to care for the children of essential personnel. 

Contributing writing by WRFI News Volunteer Susan Fortson