Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that the Finger Lakes, Central New York, Mohawk Valley, North Country and Southern Tier will all be entering phase three of reopening tomorrow, June 12th.

Phase three allows indoor restaurants and food services to reopen at 50% capacity, and allows personal care services, such as tattoo and piercing shops and nail salons to reopen. Cuomo is also letting localities reopen public pools and playgrounds today, as long as state guidelines are followed.

In Tompkins County the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 remains at 165, for the fifth day in a row. Four more of the positive cases have recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 154. There are no active cases of the virus in Schuyler County as of today. According to health department all 14 people who were infected with the virus have recovered.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has made it nearly impossible for local high schools to have traditional graduation ceremonies, Tompkins County schools are taking creative approaches, according to the Ithaca Times.

Ithaca High School has invited students by appointment-only to Stewart park, where students cross a stage and receive a placeholder diploma. The walks have been videotaped and will be played during a virtual graduation ceremony on June 25.

New Roots charter school will be changing their plans after Governor Cuomo announced that ceremonies of under 150 people would be allowed. They will be hosting an outdoor ceremony at the end of June.

Lehman Alternative community school will be continuing the tradition of having teachers read individual speeches aloud celebrating each graduating student. The speeches will be broadcast as part of a virtual ceremony at 7pm on June 24. LACS is also holding appointments on June 18 and 19 for students to hear these speeches delivered in person and receive their diplomas in the school’s amphitheater.

Trumansburg high school will be conducting a senior parade at 7pm on June 18 down Main Street in the Village. Newfield High School had their own parade last Saturday, with the names of the graduates being displayed on a neon sign outside the high school. Finally the Dryden School district is planning to host an in person ceremony on July 31st at Tompkins Cortland Community College.

Ithaca’s Common Council has asked the state and federal government to give rent and mortgage aid to those struggling financially amid the coronavirus pandemic.

WSKG reports that if the government does not provide assistance, the council wants to be able to cancel three month’s worth of rent, an ability not currently held by local governments. In order to do so, the state Department of Health would have to grant Ithaca the authority, and then the Common Council would hand over the power to Mayor Svante Myrick.

Congressman Tom Reed, who represents Tompkins and Schuyler Counties, says he does not think cancelling rent is a good idea. Representative Reed would support giving financial assistance to those who need it.

Mayor Myrick said he wants to meet with a group of tenants and landlord to discuss possibilities before going forward with a plan.

Watkins Glen State Park is starting the process of completely opening back up to the public after COVID-19.

The park has started accepting new camping reservations for after June 22nd and has reopened the famous Gorge Trail, the Observer Review reports. There are new rules set in place, such as gatherings only being allowed for family, limited access to the public bathrooms,  and monitored campgrounds to enforce social distancing.

There was a push to reopen the park for its economic benefits, as visitors were at an all-time high in 2019, with over one million people in attendance throughout the year.

The Gorge Trail will only be open on a limited schedule, and because it is a smaller area, face coverings will be required. Reservations for camping can be made online, but walk-ups will not be accepted for the time being.

Contributing writing by WRFI News Interns Phoebe Harms, Tessie Devlin, and Jon Donville