Coronavirus Update, June 24, 2020

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that the Southern Tier, which includes Tompkins and Schuyler Counties, is among the five regions on track for phase 4 of reopening this Friday.

Phase 4 allows the opening of film and tv production, higher education, professional sports without fans, and indoor and outdoor arts and entertainment. In addition, gatherings of up to 50 people, and religious gatherings of up to 33 percent capacity will be allowed.

Other regions cleared for phase 4 are Central New York, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country, and the Finger Lakes. 

Looking to COVID-19 case numbers, the total number of confirmed cases stands at 166 as of Tuesday in Tompkins County. According to the Tompkins county health department, 165 of those patients have recovered, and nearly 15,000 people have been tested in total. 

According to the Schuyler County health department, all 14 people infected with the virus have recovered.

A new travel advisory has been issued for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The measure requires any out-of-state visitors to quarantine for 14 days if they are traveling from states with high case counts. Visitors will have to quarantine if 10 people for every 100,000 residents per day test positive in their state for seven consecutive days. Currently affected states are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah, and Texas. 

The Times Union reports that New York State Governor Cuomo first suggested an isolation period for visitors last week, fearing visitations would cause another spike in cases. 

Any person who violates the advisory is subject to a mandatory quarantine or fines of up to $10,000. This advisory goes into effect at midnight tonight.

The City of Ithaca will be closing the 100 block of North Aurora Street, also known as Restaurant Row, to allow the restaurants on the street to extend outdoor dining. The Ithaca Times reports that the closure is expected to go into effect tomorrow, June 25th, and is expected to last for a one month trial period. 

The plan will allow restaurants on the street to extend their outdoor dining to the curb of the street, while the actual street will be reserved for pedestrians. Traffic will be re-routed, but there will be a pick up/drop off zone on East Seneca street to make the block more accessible. 

The Ithaca voice reports that Tompkins County has created a 2020 Summer Planning Youth Taskforce, which will aim to increase access to the limited child care and programming options this summer. 

There are three subgroups on the task force, one being the Summer Programming board. This group created a Summer camp guide, which is available on the County Website and can be used to help families find options for summer camp, and display their capacity.

The second subgroup is the equity in access group, which will focus on securing broadband connection for areas that do not currently have it so children can have access to online activities and opportunities.

There is also a clearinghouse and information sharing subgroup that is pairing with the county 211 number to streamline access to important coronavirus related information. 

As the City of Ithaca continues to re-open after the pandemic, the Ithaca Voice reports that the city will resume enforcement of parking fees this Friday, June 26. Fees were suspended back in March in tandem with the New York State on PAUSE order enacted by Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

However, parking will be offered at a reduced rate. Parking garages will now only be free for one hour, with a charge of 50 cents per hour after that for Parkmobile users, and $1.50 for coin machines. 

Governor Cuomo has signed a 180-day moratorium that prevents utility shutoffs for people financially struggling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Times Union reports that moratorium states that no municipalities or utility firms in the state of New York can shut off water, electricity, gas, or phone services to those who say they have had financial problems amid the pandemic. It also forces providers to turn on a service within 48 hours if it was shut off after the start of the lockdown. 

The moratorium will begin as soon as the governor’s office declares we are no longer in a state of emergency, or on March 31, 2021. The measure does not apply to federally regulated services like cell phones, internet, or cable television. 

Governor Cuomo has also announced the state will be granting 65 million dollars of federal CARES funding for childcare providers across the state. 

Times Union reports that it is necessary to bring back childcare programs as more parents return to work. $20 million will go towards assisting these programs in coming up with a social distancing model, and $45 million will pay for 50 percent of costs to open new classroom space. 

The $45 million will be portioned into grants of up to $6,000, phased out over the span of a few months as more parents bring their children into childcare programs. The $20 million will be provided in varying grants ranging from $300-$1,600, depending on program size.

The majority of registered and state-licensed child care programs stayed open throughout the pandemic at a reduced capacity, and services were at a very low demand as parents kept their children home.

Contributing writing by WRFI News Interns Phoebe Harms and Jon Donville