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Today's Top Stories - Friday May 15th, 2020

Cornell Cooperative Extension is teaming up with the State Department of Agriculture & Markets to distribute face masks and hand sanitizer to farms and farmworkers to help ensure their safety during the COVID-19 outbreak. In Steuben County, these materials will be available for the agricultural community at the Steuben County Fairground's 4H Building in Bath. Masks and sanitizer will be distributed on Friday, May 22nd from noon to 3pm. 

State Senator Tom O'Mara has called for an independent investigation into New York state's handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes. According to O'Mara, state officials' calls for "aggressive and decisive actions" were met with roadblocks. The State Senator says that though the Attorney General and Health Department of New York will launch probes, an independent investigation is necessary for families who lost loved ones in nursing homes since the pandemic began. Over 5,000 nursing home residents have died across the state. 

Road repair season in the Southern Tier has finally begun despite projects that may change in the future based on funding. The Corning Leader says a drop in oil prices may mean a loss of funding for planned road projects already budgeted in Steuben County. Earlier this week,  Public Works Commissioner Vince Spagnoletti told the Steuben Legislature's Public Works committee he expects to be able to make repairs on 88 miles of county roads for about $6 million.

The Southern Tier, Central New York and Finger Lakes regions are set to reopen from NY on Pause today as our region begins Phase 1 of reopening. Businesses that will be opening for this first phase beginning today effectively includes manufacturing and construction. Yesterday at his daily COVID-19 briefing in Syracuse, Governor Cuomo said he has extended parts of the NY on PAUSE throughout the state through May 28th. Parts of NY on PAUSE extended to the 28th throughout the state include social distancing of at least 6 feet indoors and outdoors, limiting the use of public transportation to essential trips and no non-essential gatherings including parties, celebrations and social events. 

It was reported yesterday Steuben County reached 248 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 40 deaths from the virus.The latest COVID-19 casualty was a 90 year old woman who died at a Hornell-area nursing home. A total of 3,481 tests were conducted in the county. A total of 152 people have recovered and 8 residents in the county were hospitalized as of yesterday. Public Health Director Darlene Smith said of the latest numbers: "Let this serve as a reminder to all of us that although we have reached a decline in cases, we are not in the clear yet." Smith also told the public to remember all of our actions going forward will determine how many more lives are impacted by the virus. 

Steuben County Sheriff's Office reports from May 1st to May 14th, deputies of the Sheriff's Office Warrant Squad arrested three people due to active warrants. The Sheriff's Office reports Pamela Traci Nagel and Robert Clinton Morey, both of Bath, and Shawn Robert Neff of Beaver Dams were arrested seperately for each violating terms or conditions of their probation and arrested due to probation violation. Each of warrants were issued out of Steuben County and each of the subjects were remanded to Steuben County Jail following arrests.

At yesterday's COVID-19 press briefing in Syracuse Governor Cuomo announced the Central New York region is set to reopen alongside our local Southern Tier region and said President Trump helped cut red tape necessary to provide $3.9 billion worth of funding for the MTA New York City transportation system. Cuomo also said New York State faces a $61 billion budget hole due to the COVID-19 pandemic and called on Washington to pass legislation to support the states. Cuomo also expressed his support for a $3 trillion House of Representatives bill introduced earlier this week that would provide state funding.

This week, Steuben County Legislature Chairman Scott VanEtten proclaimed today as Peace Officers Memorial Day as a gesture to honor officers across the region making the ultimate sacrificing during their call of duty. In his proclamation, VanEtten said that this year, law enforcement are serving a vital community role during the state of emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic which has increased their personal vulnerability to the risks of the profession. Sheriff Jim Allard joined WVIN's Community Focus this morning to remind the public today is the Law Enforcement Memorial at the Steuben County Public Safety Building. The event will be video livestreamed to observe social distancing guidelines. The annual event will begin at noon at www.facebook.com/SteubenCSO  

Issuing of New York's new license plates has been stalled for now. Accoding to officials, the lack of new vehicles being registered since DMVs have been closed to in-person visits is the partial reason to delay rolling out the new license plates. Late last summer, the new plate design was introduced to the public and set to be released last month. State officials also cite a shipment recall that had to be made because plates weren't showing up on highway cameras and plate readers. 

With the highest COVID-19 death toll of any state in the nation, New York state is looking to the Red Cross for help in providing comfort to families who have been affected. Spiritual care coordinator Tom Margrave explained: "New York approached the New York division to see if it could help. Red Cross conceived of a program of providing virtual family assistance using telephones and computers. That was approved about three weeks ago and that means we've already had people on the job for two weeks." The Red Cross Virtual Family Assistance Center offers online confidential support and mental and physical health services to families affected by COVID-19.

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