Coronavirus Update, May 16, 2020

In Tompkins County the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 stands at 139 as of Saturday. According to the Tompkins county health department, 1 person remains hospitalized for the virus. 117 of the positive cases have recovered, and over 6300 people have been tested in total. There were no new confirmed cases of the virus in Schuyler County as of Friday. According to health department officials 9 out of 10 people who were infected with the virus have recovered. Over 750 people have been tested in total.

There were over 2700 new cases of COVID-19 in New York State as of today, bringing the statewide total to over 345,000, according to the state department of health.

Five regions in New York — including the one Tompkins and Schuyler county are a part of — began a phased reopening Friday. The Southern Tier, Central New York, North County, Finger Lakes, and the Mohawk Valley are all beginning phase one of the state’s reopening plan, having met the seven metrics required for reopening. This means that low-risk businesses, including manufacturing, construction, agriculture, forestry and curb-side pick up retail may resume operations. These industries had been shuttered since March, when the Governor’s Pause Order took effect and closed non-essential businesses. 

“New York State on Pause” is extended until May 28 for all areas that were not reopened today.

The Big Red Barbershop reopened its doors earlier this week for business, only to close again a matter of hours later, according to the Ithaca Times. According to a Facebook post by one of the owners, the reopening took place on Monday, May 11 at 9 a.m., and the barbers were open for 6 hours before they were ordered by the Health Department to shut down again. The owners Lisa and Randi Cary complied, and at 3 PM, the barbershop closed its doors.

The owners say that financial considerations drove them to reopen again: since the closure of non-essential business in March,  the Big Red Barbershop had experienced a total loss of income. Lisa Cary says in her facebook post that her business had not been receiving the $600 a week that they were promised as part of their pandemic benefits. The Carys say they will file a lawsuit against the state for damages. 

Under the “New York State on Pause" order, non-essential businesses were closed in order to halt the spread of COVID-19. The Pause order expired today, and now the Southern Tier region, along with other regions in western and central New York State, are following a phased reopening plan. Phase one includes low risk businesses like agriculture, forestry, as well as retail for curbside pickup. Hairdressers and barbers are deemed as part of phase two reopening, according to the Governor.

The City of Ithaca and the Downtown Ithaca Alliance are coordinating a temporary curbside pick up system to help connect customers with retailers, according to the Ithaca Voice. 

Starting Friday, the DIA and city have established six areas known as “hubs” where customers can schedule pick ups from retailers they purchase from. Customers can order over the phone or internet, and then drive to one of the locations in the downtown area, where a staff member will deliver the purchase to their car. WRFI also reached out to the DIA this afternoon who said that pedestrian curb-side pick-up is ok as well. 

This comes as the planned reopening of Tompkins County enters phase 1, which permits low-risk industries, including curb-side pick up and drop off retail. 

The six locations are Seneca Street near Dewitt Mall, Buffalo Street near the Dewitt Mall, Tioga and Seneca Streets at the Commons, Cayuga at the Commons, Aurora at the Commons and Green Street in front of Press Bay Alley. 

As part of the phased re-opening of the Southern Tier, the Tompkins County Courthouse will resume some of its activities starting Monday, May 18th.

The Ithaca Voice reports that the first phase of re-opening will not include in-person court hearings.  Tompkins County District Attorney Matt Van Houten emphasizes that hearings would still be held virtually until further notice.  In the coming weeks, judges and staff working at the Tompkins County courthouse will focus on learning new safety procedures.

The Administrative Judge for the 6th Judicial District has instructed that clerks and other office staff will be formed into teams that will rotate through the office.  Offices will be sanitized after each team’s shift.  Social distancing procedures will be maintained and courthouse traffic will be restricted to protect the safety of judges and their support staff.  There are other additional safety measures that will be enacted when non-court visitors enter the building.

Residents of Tompkins County who are experiencing food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic have several options for picking up shelf-stable items. This month, residents may also be able to benefit from fresh produce deliveries being offered by the local Healthy Food for All program. 

The Ithaca Voice reports that Healthy Food for All, a non-profit program run by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, is a win-win for both county residents and local farmers.  The program sources produce, beans, grains and eggs from local farmers.  The organization then prepares boxes containing the items and delivers them throughout the county.

The Director of Healthy Food for all tells the Voice that in normal times, Healthy Food for All makes fresh produce available to about 200 low income families through Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA shares.  May is when the organization usually pauses the food distributions until CSA shares begin again in June. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, hundreds of rural families in the county were having difficulty getting fresh food. Healthy Food for All began a plan to deliver boxes of produce.  In the past weeks, they have worked with local farmers, Press Bay Food Transfer Hub, Regional Access and Friendship Donations Network to fill the boxes with produce.

Home deliveries are made possible by volunteer drivers such as employees of B and B flooring in Dryden. To learn more, visit

Contributing writing by WRFI News Volunteers Ed von Aderkas and Esther Racoosin