There are 3 new cases of COVID-19 as of today in Tompkins County, 167 of 172 people infected with the virus in Tompkins County have recovered, according to the County Health department. According to Tompkins Public Health Director Frank Kruppa, the new positive COVID-19 cases are related to Fourth of July social gatherings and out-of-state travel from states with spikes of the virus. Some of these cases are connected to local gatherings where social distancing and mask-wearing were not followed.

In Schuyler County, two more cases of COVID-19 were reported today, and the other 15 people infected with COVID-19 have recovered, according to their health department.

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick has officially sent an executive order to the State asking for permission to cancel three months of rent for local residents who could face evictions in the face of the COVID-19 economic crisis. This comes after mounting public pressure in the past months from the Ithaca Tenants Union, including a protest this past Monday outside of Myrick’s house and City Hall.

According to the Ithaca Times, the Mayor is working to establish a Rent Forgiveness Commission for the city, composed of five people appointed by the mayor. That group would include three renters and two landlords from the city of Ithaca, and work to create the framework for the forgiveness of rent in Ithaca. The proposed legislation covers that rent forgiveness would span April, May, and June for people who’ve accumulated rent debt, but that goal is subject to change.

Currently, the bill seeks to cover tenants who are in quote “severe jeopardy of homelessness” unquote, should rent not be forgiven. The Ithaca Times notes that the commission would work to establish who falls under that category. Myrick says he'd like to see the rule apply to quote, "people who have lost their income, who aren't independently wealthy, and who are behind on rent for three months or more,” unquote.

Now the state must approve Mayor Myrick’s executive order to allow him to proceed to forgive rent, which would make Ithaca the first city in the country to do so. Currently, there’s no timetable for when they will respond to the request.

In response to a number of complaints, Wegmans Grocery store has stated that it cannot force customers to wear a face mask, according to FingerLakes1. Despite the New York mandate requiring face coverings in all public areas, the grocer claims it cannot discriminate against those with possible medical conditions - an exemption from the New York mandate.

A Wegmans spokesperson issued a statement stressing that the chain is complying with all local and state mask mandates while ensuring the health and safety of everyone. Since they cannot inquire about an individual’s health or medical condition, they must rely on voluntary compliance.

Wegmans does not push compliance nor deny entry to a customer who refuses to wear a mask.

State-regulated health insurance companies have asked for premium increases from the state Department of Financial Services, or DFS.  The increases  average out to 11.5 percent higher premium rates.

WSKG reports that because of COVID-19, these companies face several uncertainties and have multiple requests to fulfill. These extra costs could be related to a potential vaccine program in 2021, as well as the increased costs for caring for COVID patients, due to extra sanitization and personal protective equipment.

In addition, the number of insurance claims by patients has declined significantly since the start of the pandemic. This is likely because of delayed appointments because of the pandemic, which could lead to patients getting sicker in the long run.

In the past, the DFS has not given the green light to requested rate increases, but has granted slightly lower rate hikes.

Contributing writing by WRFI Contributor Susan Fortson and News Intern Phoebe Harms