Coronavirus Update, May 8, 2020

As of Friday New York State has over 330,000 cases of the novel coronavirus, up about 3000 from yesterday, according to the state department of health. In Tompkins County the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 stands at 134. According to the Tompkins county health department, 2 people remain hospitalized for the virus. 110 of the positive cases have seen resolved symptoms, and over 4700 people have been tested in total. There are no new confirmed cases of the virus in Schuyler County, and according to health department officials all people who were infected with the virus have recovered. 566 people have been tested in total.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the Ithaca Common Council, it was announced that the city would be helping 50 households in Ithaca meet 3 months of rent, with the assistance of a federal grant.

According to the Cornell Sun, Mayor Ithaca Svante Myrick says the city has received extra funding through the federal Community Development and Block Grant Program. According to Myrick [MY-rick], the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency agreed to spend $190,000 of that increased funding to help those most in need. 

The aid will cover three months’ rent for people making 60 percent or less than the area’s median income. These funds are supposed to be released sometime before May 30th. Myrick says that it was a drop in the ocean, given there are 7,000 rental households in Ithaca, but hopes that the money would get to the people who most need it. 

A program at Cornell that provides access to college courses in New York State prisons has redirected its efforts to secure masks for inmates. 

According to the Cornell Daily Sun, the Cornell Prison Education program, or CPEP, had to put classes on pause amid the pandemic. CPEP was part of a group of college-in-prison programs that raised funds to give a mask to every one of the nearly 43,000 inmates in New York State prisons. 

The masks are made of washable and reusable cloth and could help to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus in prisons, where social distancing is not possible. As of the beginning of this month, there have been no COVID cases in the local correctional facilities that the Cornell Prison Education program serves.

In News of the Finger Lakes Region, Wells College President says that the college will have to shut down if New York State does not allow them to have on-campus classes and open residential life this fall. 

According to the Auburn Citizen, a big part of the Wells College budget comes from the fees students pay for room and board. Some sources of revenue for the college, including a joint degree with Monroe Community College and a study abroad program in Florence, Italy, have been put on pause. To have a viable on-campus experience, college officials are proposing measures such as testing students for coronavirus, taking the temperature of members of the college community every day, social distancing measures, and a combination of online and in-person classes. 

The impact of the pandemic has added to Wells’ challenges. The college is seeking re-accreditation but has been on probation with the Middle State Commission on Higher Education since last year for failing to meet those standards. 

Since shifting to distance learning this spring, Wells has since received $1.8 million dollars through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program and $623 thousand dollars through the CARES Act.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today that the state will extend the window for victims to file complaints under the Child Victims’ Act by an additional five months. The Child Victims’ Act, signed into law last year, was enacted to allow survivors of child sexual abuse to file a case that had already been time-barred or expired. However, the window to do so was originally for one year only. 

The governor says that the extension is due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The pandemic has caused such a reduction in court services has made it difficult for the survivors to prepare cases, or file claims before the original deadline of August 14th. 

While thousands of people in New York State have been given antibody tests to track the spread of COVID-19, officials are refusing to release raw data on the samples collected at a county level, reports the Albany Times Union.  A spokesperson from the State Department of Health says that the testing is being performed  with notice to local counties, but would not comment on why the data had not been shared. 

The state’s testing plan, announced two weeks ago, was supposed to test residents’ antibodies to see if those people had contracted and recovered from COVID-19. The results provide further guidance of who can or cannot contract that strain of the COVID-19 again. 

The state has released some data about results at a state-wide level — as reported Saturday, 12.3 percent of New Yorkers have the antibodies — but so far, they have not been posting results by county. 

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