Coronavirus Update, May 5, 2020

As of Tuesday New York State has over 321,000 cases of the novel coronavirus, up about 2200 from yesterday, 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. 491 people have been tested in total. In Tompkins County the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 stands at 133. According to the Tompkins county health department, 2 people remain hospitalized for the virus. 106 of the positive cases have seen resolved symptoms, and over 4400 people have been tested in total.

Amid the increasing rates of unemployment in Tompkins County and dwindling paychecks, more residents are turning to food pantries to help feed their families.  As a result, the Enfield Food Pantry is seeing the number of unique households visiting their location more than double.

The Ithaca Times reports that the Enfield food pantry, located at 182 Enfield Main Road, is the only pantry in the county that is open twice a week.  Pastor Jean Owens, who runs the facility, says that the number of households they are serving each month is 600 to 700. 

Owens says that the pantry has been able to order more food, some of which is coming from the Food Bank of the Southern Tier.  She adds that there has been steady monetary support coming from the community.  There are about 40 volunteers who have been helping out regularly.

The food pantry has been able to maintain social distancing requirements by setting up a pre-ordering system for patrons.  Pantry users place an order for food by 5 pm the Friday before they arrive for their pickup, which takes place on Sunday or Monday.  Then, they drive up and volunteers place a box with their order into their car.

Owens states that previously, the food pantry only served Enfield residents.  However, due to the closure of some local food pantries during the pandemic, the Enfield pantry has lifted their residency requirement.  She asserts that community contributions and volunteers want to make sure that none of their neighbors go hungry.

Ithaca area organizations that advocate for the homeless are collaborating more amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to the Cornell Daily Sun, Loaves and Fishes, Family and Children’s Service of Ithaca, Salvation Army, St. John’s Community Services and Second Wind Cottages are all working to ensure that homeless individuals have shelter and food.  They are also providing services that hopefully will minimize the chance that the people they serve will not contract COVID-19.

In April, a number of homeless individuals living in The Jungle encampment behind Walmart had to move due to a flood control infrastructure project.  Deborah Wilke, a homeless crisis alleviation coordinator for Second Wind Cottages, helped line up tents, storage sheds and access to water. 

St. John’s Community Services runs a shelter, but in order to maintain social distancing for its residents, it has moved many clients to local hotels.  St. John’s provides a food pantry for its clients, but food distribution is now being provided through a window.   Loaves and Fishes is providing take-out meals for the homeless, that are being distributed in different locations.

St. John’s is also coordinating testing for homeless people with COVID-19 symptoms.  Those individuals are quarantined until the test results come back.  As of yet, all of their clients have tested negative. 

The Cornell Progressives student organization has presented the Cornell administration with a list of demands, asserting that their basic student needs have not been addressed.

The list of demands, called the “coronavirus student bailout”, consists of 7 items.  At the top of the list is a 30 percent tuition refund for the current semester.  In addition, the student group asks for an equitable grading system, paid leave for all university wage workers and a role for students in University decision making.

Additional demands are that the University fully refund non-academic, campus-related expenses for resources that students paid for but did not receive due to the sudden dismissal from campus.

George DeFendini, class of 2022, a member of the group, helped write the list of demands.  He tells the Sun that Cornell Progressives have come together to present a variety of issues that they have faced under coronavirus.  One major concern of his fellow Progressives is that some Cornell faculty have imposed strict deadlines and harsh grading despite difficult circumstances that students are experiencing off campus.

Cornell Progressives have not yet heard back from the administration.  In the meantime, they are asking students to send feedback on their bailout demands.  DeFendini also affirms that students should have a say in the University’s decisions on how to re-open the campus after the COVID-19 shutdown.

The 2020 Trumansburg Farmers Market plans to open Wednesday, May 6, according to the Ithaca Voice. Natalie Baris, the market's manager, says that to keep everyone safe there is new product packaging, physical distancing and cleaning requirements. For the past two months the market's board has been developing safety procedures necessary to keep the market's operation safe for all concerned during the current pandemic.

Safety provisions require each customer to wear a mask and to remain within social distancing boundaries. The number of vendors will be restricted to food and health-related goods, produce will be packaged, and several hand-washing stations have been installed. In order to discourage congregating among customers, patrons may not sit at tables and benches and live music will be absent for the time being.  Adjustments to safety procedures will occur as COVID-19 conditions evolve.

Contributing writing by WRFI News Volunteers Esther Racoosin and Joanne Izbicki