First, we’ll take a look at the local COVID-19 caseload. The number of hospitalizations due to complications from the virus are up to 31 as of yesterday. In addition, another death linked to a COVID infection at a local nursing home was reported yesterday. As of now, it’s unknown which area nursing home the resident lived in. This is the 15th death due to COVID in Tompkins.

According to the Tompkins County Health Department, as of the time of our 6 p.m. broadcast there are 251 active cases of COVID-19. Yesterday there were an additional 13 positive cases and 28 people released from quarantine.

In Schuyler County, today there were 41 new cases of COVID-19 reported since the last update on December 31. 66 active cases remain, according to their Health Department. 5 people are now hospitalized due to the virus.

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New York Attorney General Letitia James and Governor Andrew Cuomo announced late last week that the state will renew the suspension of state debt collection for the ninth time. The temporary pause of collecting medical and student debt owed to the state of New York has been extended through January 31, 2021.

After this period, the Attorney General James will reassess the needs of state residents for another possible extension. Additionally, she will accept applications for suspension of all other types of debt owed to the state of New York. The order was first made in March and has been renewed every month since.

Individuals seeking to apply for this temporary relief can fill out an application online by visiting the OAG’s coronavirus website to learn more about the suspension of payments. If an individual is unable to fill out the online form, they can also call the OAG hotline at 800-771-7755 to learn more.

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As the vaccine is being rolled out across the state, many New Yorkers have wondered if they will be required to get the vaccine. Last month, there was a bill proposed by New York State Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal that would make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory in “certain situations”.

This bill has not been passed, and in fact, has been debunked by Governor Andrew Cuomo himself. During a COVID-19 update on December 2 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “you can't mandate that somebody takes the vaccine.” According to the Syracuse Post-Standard instead, he said that the state is trying to educate their people to show that it’s safe.

While the Novel Coronavirus is deadlier than the Common Flu, it probably is not deadly enough to the point where lawmakers would force New Yorkers to take a vaccine. At the same time, they have been able to create a mask mandate, require testing and limit crowd sizes. Stewart Schwab, a law professor at Cornell University, says that the first mandates would likely target high-risk places such as hospitals and nursing homes.

Contributing writing by WRFI Volunteer Antonio Ferme