First, a look at the local COVID-19 caseload: the number of hospitalizations in Tompkins due to complications from the virus are at 29.  Sadly there was one death from the virus reported yesterday.According to the Tompkins County health department, as of the time of our 6 p.m. broadcast there are 266 active cases of COVID-19. Yesterday there were an additional 39 positive cases and 41 people released from quarantine.

In Schuyler County, today there were 15 new cases of COVID-19 reported. 71 active cases remain, according to their Health Department. 1 additional person is now hospitalized due to the virus, bringing the total to 5.

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The Town of Dryden is readying a plan to bring municipality-owned fiber optic broadband to all of the households in the village and town, Tompkins Weekly reports.

According to Town Supervisor Jason Leifer, the cost of implementation of the plan will be about $14.3 million dollars.  About  $3 million dollars of that amount will be covered by Federal grants, and some of the remainder will be financed with bonds.

Deputy Town Supervisor Dan Lamb told Tompkins Weekly that, during the pandemic many more people are working from home, and students doing remote learning need higher internet speeds.

Lamb says the broadband plan will be finalized by spring of this year.  At that time, the town will send out a request for proposals to fiber providers and will choose the best proposal.

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In similar news, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing a high-speed internet price reduction for low-income families.

The Governor would mandate internet service providers in New York to offer high-speed internet to low-income consumers for as low as $15 per month. Cuomo is also exploring options to create a fund for families that can’t afford internet services at that rate.

Governor said in the second part of his State address yesterday that 98 percent of New Yorkers have access to high-speed internet. However, many of them cannot afford the price of an average plan, which falls around $50 a month.

In more rural areas of the state like Hamilton County, only 22 percent of families have access to high-speed internet. Some state senators have already introduced legislation this year aimed at expanding access to high-speed internet in New York. Those will likely be considered in the coming months.

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On Monday, some county officials throughout New York criticized the Governor’s vaccine rollout on a conference call with the state’s COVID vaccination leadership. The Ithaca Journal reports that complaints were focused on the distribution of vaccine doses to counties, competition for the scheduling of shots, and the state’s shifting approach. Larry Schwartz, who is leading the Governor’s vaccination efforts, admitted the process has been quote, “a little helter-skelter,” unquote.

Just as the state was approving counties to start dispensing the vaccine, it announced it is opening several large, state-run vaccination sites. Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and others are concerned that the state facilities will reduce the number of doses available at the county level.

Residents’ questions about eligibility and scheduling also are overwhelming some counties. Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin said their phone lines were quote, “melting down,” unquote. The state did roll out an eligibility hotline on Monday but the system has been overwhelmed by calls.

Contributing writing by WRFI News Volunteers Esther Racoosin and Antonio Ferme, and RFI General Manager Felix Teitelbaum