Coronavirus Update, September 1, 2020

The Watkins Glen School Board has cut $710,000 from the 2020-21 budget, eliminating multiple positions and its football season, in response to decreased state aid funding due to the pandemic.

According to the Odessa File, the loss of state aid to the district amounts to nearly 3 million dollars. The cuts include a school clerical position, three teaching aide jobs, and one administrator position. At Monday night’s meeting of the School Board, Superintendent Kelahan offered to the Board a list of potential cuts, and several possibilities, including elementary teaching jobs, a music position, among other options, were rejected for now by the board.

The fall sports season has been delayed until September 21st in New York, and football is being limited to non-contact practices. Athletic Director Rod Weeden notes that under the state’s rules, football season simply quote, ”won't happen. There's no way it's going to happen with the restraints" unquote.

In a statement released today by Odessa-Montour School Superintendent Chris Wood, he and Watkins Superintendent Greg Kelahan, had previously discussed the move to cut football from the budget, adding that it was a "joint decision" by the two districts. Wood notes that school officials know that extracurriculars such as athletics, music, and theater contribute to the development of students -- but that quote, “safety is our top priority,” unquote.

Tompkins County Legislature recently approved $300,000 to pay Cayuga Health Systems to provide free coronavirus surveillance testing to county residents for up to 10 weeks - starting Tuesday, September 1.

The Ithaca Voice reports that those who are not Tompkins County residents will have to pay the $99 Cayuga Health Systems fee. However, county residents will not have to experience symptoms or have been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive person to qualify for free testing.

Whether or not more funding will be needed will be determined by the demand for testing over the next few weeks, but a cap on how much the county will spend has yet to be decided. As of today, over 55,000 coronavirus tests have been administered in the county. The legislation’s timing is not related to Cornell University students’ return to Ithaca, as Cornell is financially responsible for testing students.

Due to health insurance companies only reimbursing necessary tests for those that exhibit symptoms, have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 or have an upcoming medical procedure, Cayuga Health Systems can no longer provide free testing to everyone. Community surveillance testing is eligible for 75 percent reimbursement from the federal government due to FEMA.

Looking at the local COVID-19 caseload, the latest numbers, released Tuesday from the Tompkins County health department, indicate that there are 9 additional positive cases, in addition to the 6 new cases reported Monday. There are 2 new recoveries as of Tuesday. According to the County Health Department, that leaves 32 active cases of COVID-19 in Tompkins.

In Schuyler County, there are no new cases of COVID-19 reported as of Tuesday, according to their Health Department. Two active cases remain.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that Alaska and Montana have been added to the ever-growing New York State COVID-19 Travel Advisory list.

People traveling from those states to New York must quarantine for 14 days. The full travel advisory includes: Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota. Other states on the travel advisory include Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Virgin Islands, and Wisconsin.

New York state’s infection rate has been below 1 percent for 25 days and the number of patients in the ICU remain at 109, which is the lowest number since March 15.

Contributing writing by WRFI News intern Tessie Devlin