Coronavirus Update, May 6, 2020

The Tompkins County Health Department has released information about all positive COVID-19 cases, such as the age, race, and location data of the patients. county Public Health Director Frank Kruppa unveiled the information at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature, according to the Ithaca Times.

Data shows that the age range with the highest rate of local infection is ages 20-29, accounting for over 31%, or 42 of the total positive cases. In Tompkins County the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 stands at 133. 

Kruppa says that there’s a large-scale testing effort happening at local nursing homes. Currently, 4.5% of the positive number of COVID-19 cases in people ages 70-79, and people ages 80 and older account for 1.5% of the caseload. Kruppa notes that those numbers could change with the results coming back from nursing homes.

According to the Tompkins county health department, 2 people remain hospitalized for the virus. 107 of the positive cases have recovered, and over 4400 people have been tested in total.

Racial distribution data of the positive cases reflects Tompkins’ overall population; 71.5% of the positive cases were among white people, and that group makes up over 76% of the county population. The biggest disparity in representation is in the Hispanic community, which makes up 5.3% of Tompkins’ population but accounts for 8% of the total positive cases. Asian people make up over 10% of the county’s population but only represent 7% of the total positive caseload. Black people make up 4% of Tompkins’ population, and represent 4.5% of  the positive tests.

In looking at the urban sprawl of the virus, the Ithaca Times notes that the densest areas of Tompkins had the highest rate of positive cases — a total of 79 positive cases are located in the City and Town of Ithaca. The Village of Lansing and the Town of Dryden both have 11 cases, the Village of Cayuga Heights has 7 cases, and all other county municipalities have under five confirmed cases. The Village of Dryden has no reported cases of COVID-19 as of yet.

Over in Schuyler County, there are no new confirmed cases of the virus, and according to health department officials the caseload stands at 9, with all cases having recovered. 491 people have been tested in total. 

In a budget update from county officials Tuesday night, it was announced that Tompkins County is furloughing 96 employees amid the economic troubles of the pandemic. According to the Ithaca Voice, County Administrator Jason Molino gave the budget update at last night’s meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature. He’s reportedly estimating a budget gap between $11 million and $18 million in operating expenses through the end of this year.

The county will also suspend new hiring of 32 vacant positions, which will save the county the most money to the tune of a little over $2.2 million the rest of this year. The employee furloughs will save the county another $587,000. Officials note that the furloughs, which begin this Friday, will be temporary with the hope that they will only be in place through July.

Officials also found additional savings in reduced spending of $500,000 on a proposed downtown Ithaca building, postponing the replacement of furniture and vehicles, and not hiring normal seasonal staff. IN total, the county reduced the budget by about $4.8 million but the area would still see - on the low end of revenue shortfall— a deficit of $7 million, and on the high end, a deficit of over $13.5 million.

Molino notes that the county will scale up operations based on workflow and public demand and they’ll reevaluate the situation at the end of June.

On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled that it was unconstitutional for the New York Board of Elections to cancel the June 23rd Democratic presidential primary. U.S. District Court Judge Analisa Torres has ruled all qualifying democratic presidential candidates must be reinstated on the ballot on June 23, as originally planned. 

According to the Cornell Daily Sun, the primary was called off on April 27th due to the pandemic. Andrew Yang, who dropped out of the race for president, brought the lawsuit forward, claiming that the cancellation was, quote, “depriving millions of New Yorkers of the right to vote,” end quote. The cancellation also assumed that Joe Biden would be the Democratic nominee. 

The New York Board of Elections co-chair told the New York Times they plan to appeal the decision.

Cornell professor Sunghwan Jung is part of a research team that is developing a cutting-edge medical mask that can be 3D-printed. According to the Cornell Chronicle, Jung’s team won a $200-thousand-dollar National Science Foundation RAPID grant to create their design. 

The mask will be based on the nasal passages of animals—like dogs and rats—with noses that are particularly good at trapping molecules. The mask design will also include copper, which is known to destroy viruses. The research team’s plan is to have the pattern for these masks be open-sourced and ready for people to 3D-print at home within a year from now.

Contributing reporting by WRFI News Volunteer Pamela Tan.