The Tompkins County Health Department is reporting a number of potential public exposures to COVID-19.

  • The toy store Alphabet Soup, at 171 East State Street in Ithaca is reporting potential exposures from 10 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday December 22nd and Wednesday December 23rd.
  • The TCAT bus system is reporting eight potential exposures on Route 32 on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, December 21st through December 23.
  • Kuma's Charmers located at 2303 Mecklenburg Rd. in Ithaca, had three possible exposures to the novel coronavirus. Those were on Thursday, December 17, 8:00pm – 12:00am, Friday, December 18, 8:00pm – 3:00am, and Saturday, December 19, 8:00pm – 3:00am.

You can review the specific days and times on the web page tompkinscountyny.gov/health  and then click on “public exposures”.  The health department recommends anyone who may have been exposed to the virus to monitor their health for any COVID-19 symptoms.  Learn about how to get tested at wrfi.org/coronavirus.

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Looking at the COVID-19 caseload in Tompkins County, the number of hospitalizations due to complications from the virus have more than doubled since last Monday. According to the Tompkins County health department, as of today there are 29 people hospitalized. There are 14 additional positives and 13 new recoveries. The County Health Department says that leaves 226 active cases of COVID-19 in Tompkins.

In Schuyler County, a tenth resident has passed away due to complications of the novel coronavirus. There were 30 new cases of COVID-19 reported today, reflecting the increased caseload since numbers were last reported Christmas eve. 68 active cases remain, according to their Health Department. 4 people remain hospitalized due to the virus.

If you’re driving through Ithaca and notice a large, red heart shaped sign that reads “Be Kind”, know that a local resident has sent a very clear suggestion to you of how to get through this difficult time.

Darrell Harrington, a resident of South Hill, started creating the signs after he had temporarily lost his job as a bartender, and had some extra time on his hands.  He told the Ithaca Voice that he noticed that people had become anxious and angry during the COVID-19 pandemic and created the sign as a way to send a simple message to others.

After creating the first 4 by 4 foot sign, Harrington found that many others wanted their own sign. Maria Salino, Harrington’s neighbor, and owner of Dolce Delight café on Route 96B, told him that she wanted one for her shop.  After Salino received her sign, she asked Harrington to create more so that she could purchase them and give them to friends.

Eight months since the first “Be Kind” sign was created, Harrington has built and sold many more.  He expressed that, through the message on the signs, he has met many people and found a way to bring people together.

Harrington notes that he has sold a total of 200 signs and shipped them to people in 10 states. He affirms that, through creating the signs, he has found a way to ease his own anxiety during the pandemic.

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The New York State Legislature aims to pass a bill extending eviction protection through May 1, reports the Ithaca Journal. The bill would temporarily stay evictions as well as mortgage foreclosures. This could protect renters, homeowners, and small-holder landlords facing economic hardship as a result of COVID-19's economic effects.

Eviction proceedings begun within 30 days of the bill's passage would give tenants 60 days to document economic hardships preventing them from paying all or part of their rent or from moving. Hardship could also include a tenant's increased risk for contracting COVID due to special health problems.

The bill would protect landlords holding ten or fewer rental properties from foreclosure or tax lien sales. It would also allow them to file hardship waivers regarding mortgage or property tax payments. The bill would also offer protection against loss of credit resulting from an inability to pay mortgages.

In addition, the bill would require local, including municipal, governments to automatically renew tax breaks available to eligible senior or disabled homeowners. This would allow such homeowners to avoid applying in person at the local assessment office.

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Today, New York Attorney General Letitia James issued an alert to New Yorkers concerning COVID-19 vaccine scams. Her press release clearly states that the Covid-19 vaccine will not become widely available to the general public in New York for several more months. The state's distribution plan is based on standards that prioritize people at higher risk of exposure, illness and/or poor outcome. Doses currently administered in the state are earmarked for high-risk health-care workers and for residents and staff in long-term care facilities.

Attorney General James stated, "we must remain vigilant about potential scams and ensure New Yorkers know the latest information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. At this time, there is no government-authorized vaccine available to the general population in New York.”

The state is currently investigating an alleged fraud concerning vaccine distribution in Orange County.  Detailed advice for avoiding Covid-19 vaccine scams can be found in the December 28 press release from the Office of the New York State Attorney General.

Contributing writing by WRFI News Volunteers Esther Racoosin, Joanne Izbicki, and Fred Balfour