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COVID-19 “hits home” for Cortland mayor

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The ongoing public health emergency forced Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin to deliver his State of the City address to residents via web stream yesterday, during which he revealed just how close the pandemic has come to his own family.

At one point during the speech, Tobin announced that his sister – who lives in New Jersey – was confirmed positive just a week ago with COVID-19.

She’s now recovering with what she says feels like a bad sinus infection, but the Cortland mayor used his sister’s story as an example of just how real the highly anticipated outbreak has become.

“Although many people will get sick, about 80% will experience symptoms that are consistent with the flu,” Mayor Tobin said. “It’s the other 20% we worry about. We have family members; neighbors – and it’s not just the elderly. Other people are also at risk.”

Tobin began by saying he had planned on using his State of the City to highlight ongoing projects like the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, the Parker school childcare transformation and the Brownfield cleanup program.

However, just as it’s happened over the past several weeks plus: COVID-19 stole the conversation.

“I’m confident that we’ve taken all the steps necessary to prepare for the challenges that may lie ahead,” Tobin said. “I can also say I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the way our community has come together to help each other through these challenges…I know that we have done as much – if not more – than any community in New York State or beyond.”

(WXHC photo/Mayor Tobin gives 2020 State of the City from inside the near-empty Cortland Youth Center)

Currently, there are three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Cortland County. That number is likely to grow as more tests are conducted, with the statewide total this week surpassing 25k cases, making it the epicenter of the outbreak in U.S.

Among the greatest concerns of the rapidly spreading pandemic: the toll it will take on hospital capacity.

Governor Cuomo says his goal is for the state’s hospitals to double their normal capacity in order to effectively meet the expected rush in demand. At the very least, he’d like to see a 50% increase.

Thankfully, this problem has so far not surfaced in Cortland, but Tobin said he and city leaders stand ready to help if and when it does.

“From the conversations I’ve had with the president at Guthrie Cortland Medical Center (Jennifer Yartym), they’re on track in terms of what they need,” Tobin said. “The city has offered our ability to assist and we stand ready to help the hospital if they need to increase capacity in some other way, shape, or form.”

According to Tobin, the Cortland area may soon explore options like drive-in testing centers, similar to those found in some of its neighboring counties.

Details on any such developments are still being worked out among city leaders, but Mayor Tobin assured the community their “fingers are on the pulse” of the evolving situation.

PRESS PLAY BELOW to listen to Mayor Tobin’s full-length SOTC address:


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