Tompkins County is designating its Sheriff’s Office as the primary force in charge of responding to gatherings that violate the state’s orders on mask wearing, social distancing, and density.

It was announced Friday by the county that the office would be collaborating with other agencies and public safety officials from local higher education institutions to enforce the safety guidelines.

According to the Tompkins county press release, fines may be issued if repeat violations occur. Additionally, if individuals at the residence are students, their respective schools will be notified and may take further action in line with their regulations laid out in reopening plans. The Sheriff’s Office will reportedly respond to reports initially with an “education-based approach.” 

The agency will respond to reported gatherings where mask-wearing or social distancing are not being followed, and/or involve over 50 individuals. If citizens observe such an event, they can call a non-emergency dispatch line at (607) 273-8000. 

Looking at the local COVID-19 caseload, as of Monday there is 1 new case of the virus confirmed in Tompkins, and no new recoveries. Over the weekend there was 1 other positive case reported, along with 10 more recoveries. According to the County Health Department, that leaves 13 active cases of COVID-19 in Tompkins.

In Schuyler County, again there are no new cases of COVID-19 reported as of Monday, according to their Health Department. All active cases have recovered.

Finally, Sunday marked the lowest one-day percentage of COVID-19 samples in New York that have turned out positive since the virus was first tracked in the state.

Cornell students coming from areas on New York’s travel advisory list are scrambling to find accommodations for the start of the semester. This comes after the school decided to no longer provide a quarantine space for people traveling from the 35 states & territories on the list. Cornell University announced on July 30 that it was reversing its initial policy to provide accommodations for students coming from states on New York’s 14-day quarantine list.

The Cornell Daily Sun reports that just weeks before the start of fall classes, students are still trying to decide whether to return to campus or not.  Students from states on the advisory list that have decided to return are going to new lengths to find quarantine accommodations.

Some students are booking two-week hotel or AirBnb stays - for example, 7 first year students sharing an AirBnb in Syracuse.

Some local businesses are working to provide accommodations for incoming students. The Clarion Inn Ithaca and Cortland locations are offering 2 week quarantine packages for students.  The travel service OurBus is partnering with hotels in the Elmira and Corning area to provide rooms and transport to campus after the end of the quarantine.

Many students from states on the quarantine list have decided that the cost of staying in a hotel or other location near Ithaca for two weeks prior to classes is just not worth it, and instead are attending the semester remotely.

Indoor health clubs have still not gotten approval to reopen in New York State. Gym owners who have created reopening plans are frustrated with the Cuomo administration’s lack of communication with their businesses.

WSKG news reports that now, hundreds of gyms across New York are suing the state in a class-action lawsuit.

Nikki Polos, owner of Aspen Athletic clubs in Central New York, says she is confident that her gyms can reopen safely with modifications to reduce viral spread.

Kathryn Anderson, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at SUNY Upstate Medical,  says that even if gyms increase cleaning, move machines far apart, and limit numbers of patrons, the virus can still spread.  Anderson asserts that people working out breathe deeply and can emit COVID infected droplets.

Health experts acknowledge that they do not fully understand transmission of the virus indoors.   They express that people should continue to do their workouts outside.

A large number of Pennsylvanians work at businesses in the Southern Tier.  And, that has some business leaders in the Chemung and Steuben County Chambers of commerce worrying about an uptick in COVID-19 transmissions. 

The Ithaca Journal reports that leaders in the Chambers of Commerce wrote a letter to Governor Cuomo asking what would happen if Pennsylvania was added to the list of states for which travelers have to quarantine upon reaching New York State.  This would occur if the state had a positive COVID-19 test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day rolling period.

A group of New York State lawmakers, including State Senator Tom O’Mara, wrote to Cuomo’s office. But, Rich Azzopardi, Senior Advisor to the Governor, says the matter is a non-issue.  He adds that Pennsylvania, which last week had an average daily case rate of 6.5 per 100,000 people, is nowhere near the metrics for being included on New York’s travel advisory list.

Contributing Writing by WRFI News Volunteer Esther Racoosin