Cortland leaders form COVID-19 Action Team

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While Cortland County still has no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus, the Legislature has proactively created a COVID-19 Action Team consisting of leaders from across the community.

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The new committee was announced this week by Chairman Paul Heider at a special legislative session on Tuesday night (March 17).

It includes, but is not limited to, a mix of county department heads, legislators and the county administrator, joined by municipal officials (incl. fire/EMS), school administrators and childcare representatives.

“I want to thank everyone for their hard work and commitment to Cortland County,” Heider said in his opening remarks.

Getting a jump on the arrival of COVID-19 in the community has been a priority of the new task force, which Heider said has been meeting on a consistent basis over the past several weeks to coordinate a unified response.

That comes as the amount of confirmed cases in Tompkins County has now risen to six and nearly every one of Cortland’s neighbors have positively ID’d the virus among residents.

Governor Cuomo issued an executive order today directing companies statewide to reduce their nonessential workforce by 75%, which is hitting hardest in the food service and transportation industries.

The Executive Order from the governor includes the specific details of what businesses are exempt:

Effective on March 20 at 8 p.m.: All businesses and not-for-profit entities in the state shall utilize, to the maximum extent possible, any telecommuting or work from home procedures that they can safely utilize. Each employer shall reduce the in-person workforce at any work locations by 50% no later than March 20 at 8 p.m. Any essential business or entity providing essential services or functions shall not be subject to the in-person restrictions. This includes essential health care operations including research and laboratory services; essential infrastructure including utilities, telecommunication, airports and transportation infrastructure; essential manufacturing, including food processing and pharmaceuticals; essential retail including grocery stores and pharmacies; essential services including trash collection, mail, and shipping services; news media;  banks and related financial institutions; providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations; construction; vendors of essential services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of residences or other essential businesses;  vendors that provide essential services or products, including logistics and technology support, child care and services needed to ensure the continuing operation of government agencies and provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public.

Any other business may be deemed essential and able to receive an exemption through Empire State Development, which can be requested online at

Additionally, all indoor shopping malls, amusement parks and bowling alleys were ordered to close indefinitely effective at 8:00 tonight, following all bars & restaurants being directed earlier this week to reduce their operations to takeout/delivery service only.

Only essential services, businesses and organizations are advised to stay open after 8 pm, such as grocery stores, gas stations, medical facilities and pharmacies.

(A comprehensive list of schedule changes in the area can be found on our website.)

Cortland County declared a State of Emergency on Sunday (March 15), allowing officials easier access to crucial state and federal response funding to help with local efforts to combat the pandemic.

The Sheriff’s Office has programmed a special new CDC-alert feature to its mobile app available for Apple and Android.

So far, both state and federal lawmakers have worked to pass funding packages to help local communities impacted by COVID-19.

Governor Cuomo and state legislature have passed a new law guaranteeing job protection and pay for New Yorkers who are quarantined, which includes a permanent paid sick leave program.

Testing for COVID-19 is also now free for all eligible New Yorkers with health insurance, as ordered by a health care provider.

Additionally, the State Department of Labor has implemented a new filing system and extended service hours to ease the pressure of an influx of unemployment claims.

Click here for a complete instructions for filing an unemployment claim.

The state is also reaching out to qualified former doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals who are willing to supplement personnel in New York hospitals, as experts say care capacity is going to be one of the key issues at-hand with this pandemic.

Several utilities – like NYSEG and National Grid – have also helped customers by suspending service terminations and debt collections.

Stay tuned with WXHC News as we continue to provide local coverage on the global COVID-19 pandemic.

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