Coronavirus Update, September 2, 2020

The Tompkins County Health Department is saying that the cluster of 9 positive coronavirus cases at Cornell reported on Friday has now grown to 21 positive cases, according to the Ithaca Voice.

At Tuesday night’s meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature, County Health Director Frank Kruppa said that the new cases are tied to the people who were already in quarantine because they were close contacts with the initial nine people who tested positive. Kruppa notes that they have not yet detected additional exposure to the community.

According to the Governor’s office, New York colleges and universities must return to remote learning with limited on-campus activity for two weeks if 5 percent or 100 individuals test positive for COVID-19 within a two-week period.

Cornell says that they have placed some students on temporary suspension for violating the school's student behavioral compact. No additional information has otherwise been released about the students involved.

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, and 2 new recoveries. According to the County Health Department, that leaves 32 active cases of COVID-19 in Tompkins.

In Schuyler County, there are 2 new cases of COVID-19 reported as of Wednesday, according to their Health Department. Schuyler County Public Health received notification today that two Landon’s Pub & Pizza employees have tested positive for COVID-19, and the affected individuals worked multiple shifts during the time they were potentially contagious. The business has been closed for disinfection per New York State Department of Health directive.  Anyone who visited Landon’s between August 19th and August 29th are advised to get tested for COVID-19, self-quarantine for 14 days from the last visit to Landon’s Pub & Pizza, and monitor themselves for novel coronavirus symptoms.

For more information on symptoms of the virus and how to get tested for COVID-19, visit

Tompkins Cortland Community College, or TC3, began its fall semester Monday, following testing of its 275 faculty, staff and enrolled students for active COVID-19 infection.

According to a TC3 press release, the testing protocol revealed one positive test of an asymptomatic individual.  The person who tested positive lives off campus and is currently in isolation at home.

TC3 has sought to lower the density of people on campus by having only 38 percent of its classes in person.  The faculty and administration have assured that fall semester classes offer multiple sections, so that students and faculty could have the option of attending virtually or in-person.

Frank Kruppa, Tompkins County Public Health Director, says that people attending TC3 in person are required to wear masks on campus and must be sure to keep six feet apart from others.

The Legal Aid Society of New York City is urging New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie [HAY-stee] and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to extend the current tenant eviction moratorium.

Spectrum News reports that the legal assistance group sent a letter emphasizing that if the moratorium is not extended, come October 1st tenants could be left houseless at a time when COVID-19 infections may be on the rise and flu season is beginning.

The Legal Aid Society adds that if tenants are evicted from their homes, they may end up moving into a homeless shelter, or with friends and family - both which could increase the spread of COVID-19.  The pandemic and evictions are affecting more low-income people of color, and the group notes in their letter that quote “New Yorkers who were living on the brink of poverty before the crisis will face catastrophic consequences, including food instability and homelessness,” unquote.

In addition to the thousands of people at risk of eviction, there are about 14,000 New York households that had already been in danger of losing their homes before March.

New York State residents that want to vote in the general election through absentee ballot due to concerns about COVID exposure at the polls can now do so - thanks to a new executive order by Governor Cuomo.

On Tuesday, Cuomo announced the opening of a new internet portal where voters can request an absentee ballot.  This action is one of several election reforms that Cuomo recently signed into law to make it easier for state residents to vote amid the pandemic.

Those measures include:  Allowing absentee ballot applications to immediately be submitted to the local Board of Elections, and letting voters submit an absentee ballot if they fear illness due to voting in person. It also ensures that all absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election day will be counted.

Other new voting laws allow people who are voting absentee to drop off their ballot at their local board of elections without a postmark up to a day after the election.  Absentee ballots bearing a postmark showing that they were mailed on or before election day will be accepted if received by November 10.

Cuomo has also issued an executive order compelling the County Boards of Election to inform voters of upcoming deadlines, and help ensure that absentee ballots received by the lawful deadlines will be used.

Contributing writing by WRFI News Volunteer Esther Racoosin