In Tompkins County the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased by 2 Friday, to bring the total number of cases in the area to 148. According to the Tompkins county health department, 1 person remains hospitalized for the virus. 124 of the positive cases have recovered. The total number of people tested stands at over 8200. 

The drive thru sampling site at The Shops at Ithaca Mall has differing hours this week and the beginning of next week. Saturday, the site is open from 8:30 AM–noon, and the site is closed Monday, May 25 for Memorial Day. Pre-register online at cayugahealth.org or call 607-319-5708.

There were no new confirmed cases of the virus in Schuyler County as of Friday. According to health department officials 10 out of 13 people who were infected with the virus have recovered. Over 1100 people have been tested in total.

Statewide, there were about 1700 new cases detected as of Friday, according to the state department of health. This brings the total number of cases in New York to over 358,000.

New York State has launched a $100 million New York Forward Loan Fund to benefit small businesses that have not received federal assistance amid the pandemic. According to Governor Cuomo, New York will focus on giving out the loans to businesses with 20 or less employees and less than $3 million in gross revenue. The Governor adds that businesses run by minority and women owned small businesses will be prioritized. Learn more at end.ny.gov/nyforwardloans.

Additionally, a new pilot program in the state including over 50 pharmacies will be allowed to conduct 7,000 COVID-19 tests a week. 

The Governor also announced that New York State is making training for new contact tracers free of charge. This is done in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. As of now, contact tracing is being done in the Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country, the Southern Tier and Western New York.

Long Island and the Mid-Hudson Valley Regions are expected to begin construction staging to prepare for phase one of reopening. Governor Cuomo says that if those areas continue to see a lower amount of deaths and gets its contact tracing going, the regions could begin re-opening next week.

The Ithaca City School District voted yesterday to end classes a week earlier than expected, reports the Ithaca times. ICSD Schools will finish virtual instruction on June eighth and will continue with final projects and student conferences until June sixteenth. 

The school system has been online since March, and has been conducting a distance learning program since April 13th. The Times notes that free school meal deliveries will be available for students until June 25.

Ithaca Town Hall will reopen for some in-person functions starting next week — with some new limitations, writes the Ithaca Voice. The move is part of the phased re-opening of the region.

The building will only be open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Additionally, visitors will be required to wear masks, sanitize their hands at the door, and answer some screening questions. Masks will be available for those who don't have one. 

The conditions on re-opening are expected to last two weeks as city officials monitor the situation. If all goes well, regular hours are expected to resume the week of May 8, although safety measures will continue indefinitely. 

In an effort to expand testing capabilities in the region, the Tompkins County legislature has approved the purchase for a new testing machine, reports the Ithaca Voice.

The machine will cost $55,000, and will be able to test up to one hundred samples per day. Having the machine will help to reduce the turnaround time on tests, as they will not have to be shipped out to other laboratories. 

Cayuga Health is also working on a proposal to begin pooling tests. This method would allow multiple tests to be pooled together, and if there was a positive test, employees could go through the individual tests to determine which one was positive. Given the low prevalence of the virus in our area, the pooling method could allow samples to be tested much faster. 

While the cost of the machine is high, approximately 75 percent of the machine’s cost is expected to be picked up by the federal government. Half of the remaining cost would be funded by the state as well, reducing the cost to Ithaca and Tompkins County to $7,000 in total. 

The Tompkins County Health Department is reminding residents that Memorial Day ceremonies of 10 people or less are allowed in New York state. Additionally, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says that New York’s beaches, including municipal beaches and lakefront sites, are open today for the holiday weekend at a 50 percent capacity limit, reports Times Union. This is a collaboration between New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware.

Governor Cuomo said earlier this week that New York state beaches will open, even though some parts of the state do not meet reopening criteria. This is so that New Yorkers do not visit out-of-state beaches. Cuomo explains that local officials must follow the state’s guidelines for beach opening and areas will be closed if they fail to do so. 

People who plan to visit the beaches must adhere to social distance rules, including staying at least six feet apart, avoiding contact sports and wearing face masks if unable to socially distance. Capacity limits will also be enforced by limiting parking spaces and beach entrances.  

Contributing writing by WRFI News Interns Jon Donville and Tessie Devlin