– By Gabriel Pietrorazio
On Thursday, strategic community partners from the City of Geneva gathered digitally to host a virtual livestream event on Facebook, “Live from City Hall.”
City Manager Sage Gerling moderated the announcements, introducing each guest who provided updates on behalf of their respective organizations and efforts while combatting the spread of COVID-19 in Geneva and in some cases, even for the rest of Ontario County.
Finger Lakes Health on the Testing Frontlines
Vice President of Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer Jason Feinberg, M.D. at Finger Lakes Health started the discussion, sharing pertinent updates about rapid testing and additional employee screenings at their nursing home facilities.
Feinberg acknowledged that residents from Ontario, Seneca, and Yates counties comprise of Finger Lakes Health’s primary coverage areas for patients and he seeks to keep them healthy and safe during the pandemic by urging residents to return back to their facilities for routine visits and check-ups, especially for those who needs labs drawn.
After last week’s announcement from Governor Andrew Cuomo, elective procedures are resuming at Finger Lakes Health and other medical centers across the state.
Feinberg shared that Finger Lakes Health has been on the frontlines when it comes to testing for COVID-19 cases throughout the three-county region, conducting 25 percent of all tests within Ontario, Seneca, and Yates counties – tallying a total of 4,000 tests.
Finger Lakes Health is also investing in rapid test kits, which turn around results in less than 24-hours.
In response to the recent mandate set by Governor Cuomo about screening care professionals within nursing homes, Feinberg stated that the testing of all staff personnel shall occur twice a week among their 500 employees, meaning that 1,000 tests shall be issued each week – just for Finger Lakes Health staff alone.
While video medicine conferencing has been offered at Finger Lakes Health, Feinberg insists on providing the proper level of coverage to residents in the region.
Although the pandemic has caused a drastic disruption on a day basis, Feinberg reminds residents to revisit their doctor’s offices and that it’s safe for them to see medical professionals in person.
“There was a significant pause. We have to play a little catch-up, but we want people to come in for the routine things that are recommended so they don’t disregard their health and say, “Well, I don’t need it anymore.” It is safe to come back for that as we reopen and I encourage people We’re waiting for you, and we’re taking the appropriate measures to keep it safe,” Feinberg concluded.
Closing-Out the School Year, City Budget Vote, Plans for Graduation, and Summer School
Superintendent Trina Newton of the Geneva City School District opened-out with a status update on her plans moving forward during the New York State on PAUSE statewide order.
While Governor Cuomo announced on Monday that Phase 1 will reopen this upcoming Friday, May 15th in the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, and Mohawk Valley, schools fall under the final category: Phase 4.
Summer school will not open until July 1st, according to Newton and this year’s programming will focus on a targeted approach and not as robust in comparison to previous years.
Newtown also mentioned that the pandemic is impacting the voting process to approve the upcoming city school budget.
A budget hearing will start in two weeks at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 27th via Zoom for the public.
Once the budget hearing concludes, Geneva residents will have until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9th to submit their absentee ballot vote in the mail.
All voting will be conducted by absentee ballot, as told by Newton, and ballots are being currently printed at the time of the livestream from yesterday.
As for wrapping-up the rest of this school year which has gone remote learning from home, Newton explained that principals from each of the city’s schools shall send separate emails notifying students and parents about the process for their children to clean-out lockers and obtain belongings soon.
Although school is in-session, but students are left at home, the district is still feeding families in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club.
Newton noted that she has been collaborating with the Ontario County Public Health Director, establishing that only a limited number of persons may enter any building at any time in order to still observe social distancing practices.
Still, the biggest question remains unanswered for graduating seniors at Geneva High School.
Newton formed a committee consisting of current seniors, faculty, and administrators to weigh how the city shall celebrate this accomplishment amid the global pandemic.
“I feel like they’ve been cheated,” Superintendent Newton said.
While the path forward remains unknown even to her, she promises that whatever happens, the district’s decision will entail “solid plans and keep everyone safe.”
How are the Colleges Handling the Pandemic?
Vice President for Campus Life Robb Flowers at Hobart and William Smith Colleges shares on the livestream that the “Maymester” term and other summer courses are occurring remotely during the summer months ahead of this August.
Although the final exams just concluded, 110 students remained on campus following the spring break during March when all courses were transferred to online learning.
“Our faculty have done a remarkable job making the transition to remote learning. We’re a two-hundred-year essential liberal arts college. We don’t think of ourselves as the University of Phoenix or Southern New Hampshire. It’s a very different experience and a different means by which we deliver the education,” Flowers said.
Flowers also explained that Sodexo Food Services will remain open during the summer to continue packaging meals through their partnership with the Boys & Girls Club in an effort to keep feeding the city.
Usually, Sodexo Food Services are closed when the Colleges are not fully in session, but President Joyce P. Jacobsen decided to keep their doors open due to the pandemic.
While the Colleges already announced that the commencement exercises for the Class of 2020 have been cancelled and subsequently postponed for a later date, no other students will return back to campus – except in the event to remove their belongings within any dorms.
Residential Education at the Colleges have allowed students until Monday, June 15th to retrieve their belongings and vacate the property, and staff are assisting some students who may not be able to safely return due to flight and other travel restrictions, if they have already departed from the campus.
“We miss students on campus, but our interaction with them is inspiring. They’re resilient, they’re good people and they appreciate what they’ve been able to get out of the faculty from here at the Colleges,” Flowers stated.
Town Hall Sets to Reopen this Upcoming Monday
Town Supervisor Mark Venuti outlines the steps that officials are taking to reopen the town hall in Geneva as of Monday, May 18th.
After following a plan full of precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including a new reception desk – plenty of sanitizer, and a reinforced mandate to wear masks for whomever intends on entering the building.
Venuti mentioned that the hours of operation will start at 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday to Thursday each week moving forward, which is based on the contingency that this procedure remains safe for patrons and providers alike.
Welcome New York Plans to Reopen Following Memorial Day
In the final moments of the first-ever Live from City Hall livestream, Gerling shared some additional updates, noting that city hall is still processing marriage license applications.
While the Taste New York stores across the state remained open throughout the pandemic, Geneva’s Welcome New York location has been closed, but Gerling announced that the store shall also reopen after Memorial Day.
Additionally, the bathroom facilities along the Lakefront with limited hours and Gerling reminds residents to maintain social distancing along the Lakefront walkways.
In the future, Gerling hopes to continue hosting more noon livestream updates for city residents after thanking the town of Victor for inspiring Geneva to produce their own livestreams.