Coronavirus Update, July 8, 2020

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick has agreed to draft an executive order for the State Department of Health to approve, forgiving three month’s worth of rent in the city of ithaca. This comes after a protest by members of the Ithaca Tenants Union on Monday night.

Members of the union marched from Mayor Myrick’s home to City Hall while demanding the mayor draft and sign an executive order that forgives up to three month’s worth of rent, according to the Ithaca Voice. The Mayor and common council passed a resolution with the New York State Department of Health last month that requested approval for Mayor Myrick to issue the order, but he had not done so.

The state Department of Health has asked for a copy of the order to decide whether or not it should be approved. After hours of protesting while members of the union met with the mayor over the phone, Mayor Myrick agreed to draft and send the order within 24 hours.

In more news surrounding local housing advocacy, undergraduates and Law students from Cornell University have partnered with the Ithaca Tenants Union to create a hotline that will connect local tenants who are facing eviction with legal resources. According to the Ithaca Times, the hotline is now staffed with 15 undergraduate students, in addition to law students and attorneys who are doing the work pro-bono.

The goal is to ensure that renters are aware of their rights under the law, and to provide support to renters in difficult situations.  The station strives to provide advice or referral within one week of the initial inquiry.  Renters needing representation in court will be referred to the Legal Assistance of Western New York.

The website for the hotline is, and the email address is: [email protected]. Tenants in need can also contact 607-301-1560.

Cornell University President Martha Pollack has issued a statement in support of international students, in response to guidelines released this week by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that will prevent international students from staying in the US if their school goes fully online.

Cornell announced recently that they will be using a hybrid model of instruction with both in person and online classes, so the school should not be affected by the guidelines. However, if the method of instruction were to change to fully online, the new guidelines by ICE would apply to the university.

In her statement, Pollack also announced that the school will be joining an amicus brief with other institutions to support Harvard and MIT as they pursue litigation to stop the implementation of the new rules. According to WBUR in Boston, both MIT and Harvard are suing the Department of Homeland Security and ICE in U.S District Courts. Harvard just announced entirely online instruction this year, and MIT is pursuing a hybrid model of online and in-person instructure. The lawsuit asks the court to file an injunction against the order.

The New York Senate Health Committee chairman is calling for public hearings to clarify conclusions from the Department of Health’s report that link nursing home COVID deaths with asymptomatic staff and visitors. According to the New York State of Politics blog, Senator Gustavo Rivera from the Bronx made the remarks, saying the report raised “more questions than answers".

The report was issued earlier in the week by State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. The controversial finding of the report was that staff and visitors to New York State nursing homes made the COVID pandemic worse. Critics of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo point to his policy mandating that nursing homes accept patients who had tested positive for COVID as the culprit for the tragic death tolls in homes across the state. Approximately 6,000 deaths in nursing homes were attributed to COVID-19 in New York.

Governor Cuomo has granted a month-long extension to rules that allow restaurants and bars to provide alcohol service in expanded outdoor seating areas, according to the Albany-Times Union.

This includes the utilization of sidewalks and streets for outdoor seating that are not normally included in businesses’ liquor licenses. The State Liquor Authority has lessened its usual strict rules in the Capital Region to account for the number of businesses extending their outdoor seating.

Places serving outside in adjacent regions that were not previously allowed still need approval from municipalities, but have mostly had their rules lessened as well.

The Public Employees Federation is asking that Governor Cuomo require buildings with state  workers to use the same air-filtration standards being imposed in large malls and other private-sector businesses.

The federation, which is also one of the state’s largest public labor unions, is calling on the governor to install high-efficiency particulate air, according to the Albany Times Union. These filters capture particles similar in size to the virus, and improve ventilation.

The union says that the state should ensure a safe environment for its workers in addition to large public spaces and businesses. As of now, state workers are being screened for the virus and having their temperatures checked daily.

Looking to the local COVID-19 caseload, there is one new case In Tompkins County as of Tuesday. 167 of the 169 people infected with the virus have recovered as of Wednesday, according to the county health department. In Schuyler County, 14 out of 15 people infected with COVID-19 have recovered, according to their health department.

Contributing writing by WRFI News interns Jon Donville and Phoebe Harms