Coronavirus Update, July 30, 2020

In the weeks since Cornell University announced its reactivation plans for the fall, the plan has been met with a mix of support and concern from the community.

According to the Ithaca Journal, local government leaders are maintaining support of the plan, while some residents are worried that the sudden influx of students in the city will put the community at risk amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Many residents have created a petition with a list of demands and questions of local officials, and recently held a protest outside Day Hall on Cornell’s campus.  

Local officials are referencing a mathematical model conducted by Dr. Peter Frazier that a predicted 1,250 Cornell community members will be infected with COVID-19 in the fall if the hybrid model of both in-person and online courses is followed. And, over 7,000 Cornell community members would become infected if the campus didn't reopen at all, because students would return to Ithaca regardless.

Currently, Cornell plans to start classes on September 2 with a phased move-in period and a hybrid model of both in-person and online courses. Students will be tested for the virus prior to move in and throughout the semester. Students will also have to follow social distancing guidelines and complete a daily online health questionnaire. 

Thanks to some anonymous donors, the annual Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare fundraiser will have some additional revenue this year - amid a big change to the event due to the pandemic. 

Normally, the initiative involves fundraising in the lead up to a group of women swimming over a mile across Cayuga Lake. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's event will instead feature a variety of individual activities that participants can take part in on their own. 

The fundraiser raises money for hospicare and palliative care in Tompkins and Cortland Counties. The Ithaca Voice reports that the anonymous donations include $45,000 in matching donations until July 31. Then there will be a virtual event on August 8th to celebrate the success of all participants.

More information can be found on the website,

Looking to the local COVID-19 caseload, as of Wednesday, there are 2 new cases of the virus, and 1 recovery in Tompkins County. According to the Health Department, there are 33 active cases of COVID-19 in Tompkins.

In Schuyler County, there is 1 new case of COVID-19 reported as of Thursday, according to their Health Department. All other active cases have recovered.

As state budget deficits continue to increase, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has rejected calls to increase taxes on the state's resident billionaires, reports the Times Union. 

Cuomo told the press on a recent call that taxing every billionaire half a billion dollars to make up the deficit would mean the country would “have no billionaires."

The Governor’s statement comes within the context of Congress' current address of a new COVID-19 relief bill. In the past several months, the governor has repeatedly called for federal assistance to the states in connection with the economic crisis arising from anti-COVID-19 measures. 

However, even before the pandemic some state lawmakers and labor unions had called for increasing taxes on the wealthy. They called for raising tax brackets for incomes over $1 million, along with imposing a tax on second homes, and a new capital gains tax for the state's billionaires. 

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles is now allowing DMV-licensed driving schools to offer the 5-hour Pre-Licensing Course online. The in-class course was suspended as a result of the social-distancing demands of curbing the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Only those driving schools licensed by the DMV can conduct the online courses, and several conditions must be met to make the teaching process valid. For instance, the course must be taught live by qualified instructors through video sessions. The schools can use the technology platform of their choice but it must allow for teacher/student interaction during the online sessions. 

Students must pre-register for the course and still need to present their learner’s permits to the school. The course must be taught using the DMV approved Pre-Licensing Course Curriculum and students must be well informed of the technology they will need to access the course.

Contributing writing by WRFI News interns Jon Donville and Phoebe Harms, and WRFI Volunteer Joanne Izbicki