Ellen Abbott

Reporter, Syracuse

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County.  Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered. 

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Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

There's been a big uptick in the number of positive cases of the coronavirus in Onondaga County in the last day, rising from 60 to 81. County Executive Ryan McMahon said Wednesday that’s out of a total of about 1550 tests, and some of the backlogged results from last week coming in. What concerns him is there is still a high number of young people testing positive, with 20 cases involving individuals in their 20s.

Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital

It's been more than a week since schools closed in most of the state in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus. A local pediatric psychologist recommends families keep an eye on children’s mental health during a very trying time.

Parents and caregivers are trying to fill the empty hours for kids now that there’s no school, no playdates, no athletics, no going to the mall. Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital pediatric psychologist Anne Reagan advises families to monitor a child’s mental health attitude in what can be a very scary time.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

As more and more people are forced to stay home and in close quarters because of the coronavirus, officials at Vera House in Syracuse are worried about an uptick in domestic violence.

Vera House Executive Director Randi Bregman said she wouldn't be surprised.

"I believe there will be more abuse in the homes," said Bregman. "And I believe people who are hurt will be in more challenging situations and may take more risks depending on how they are trapped in their homes like this."

Beck Stephens

Teachers are coming up with creative ways to keep in touch with students in this era of distant online learning. One central New York teacher is using technology to go beyond the classroom basics.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Rocky Mountain Laboratories

As the number of positive cases of COVID-19 continue to rise across New York state, they also continue to rise in Onondaga County. As of Sunday afternoon, the county had 45 confirmed cases.

County Executive Ryan McMahon said we can expect that number to continue to rise as more people are tested for the coronavirus.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

As the number of cases of the coronavirus continues to grow across the state and region, businesses in central New York that are suffering because of the outbreak will be able to get some help. Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said Thursday the Syracuse Economic Development Corporation will begin offering loans that are interest free for six months, to businesses with less than 50 employees.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

A new testing site for the coronavirus is open today in the city of Syracuse. The Syracuse Community Health Center on South Salina Street will test individuals who may have been exposed to the virus and have been referred by a physician. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said the idea is to prevent people from flocking to emergency rooms and overwhelming the system.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

Upstate University Hospital officials are hoping coronavirus testing can be up and running on the central New York campus in a matter of weeks.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this past weekend that Upstate was one of several places across the state that can begin local testing for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Stephen Thomas said Upstate’s microbiology lab will get the testing up and running.


There are still no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Onondaga County or in central New York. One person in Syracuse and one in Tompkins County are being tested, and 19 people in Onondaga County who have returned from one of the five countries where there has been a major outbreak of COVID-19, have been quarantined. 

Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta said Monday she has one big ask of the community right now: anyone who returns to central New York from China, Iran, Italy, North Korea or Japan, should self-quarantine.

Spanish Virtually / Flickr

As central and northern New York prepares for potential cases of the coronavirus, health experts are repeating one piece of advice to potential patients: Anyone who thinks they have the virus should call their doctor, urgent care center or an emergency room before heading into a waiting room.

If COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, turns up in central and northern New York, the last thing Crouse Hospital Chief Medical Officer Seth Kronenberg wants to see, are people flooding to emergency rooms to get tested for the virus.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County officials are urging central New Yorkers to stay calm when it comes to the coronavirus and the possibility of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, turning up locally.

County Executive Ryan McMahon has just a few words for people worried about the virus spreading into Onondaga County.

"This is not the time to panic," he said.

McMahon was in Washington D.C. this week for a conference with county executives from across the country, and left him confident that Onondaga County is ready for the virus.


Congress is expected to vote this week on a bill to pump billions of dollars into the federal response to the coronavirus, which continues to spread. Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) said Monday that the $7-8 billion is expected to pass the House and Senate by the end of the week.

"We’re doing everything we possibly can, and the bill this week coming out of the House and Senate that’s going to be a major funding bill to fund more lines of defense. $7-8 billion is what I’m hearing. By the end of the week we’ll have that signed into law," Katko said.

Payne Horning / WRVO News (file photo)

The international agency that regulates water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River could find itself the target of lawsuits if some upstate New York congressional representatives have their way. Legislation has been introduced in the House by Reps. John Katko (R-Camillus), Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica), and Joe Morelle (D-Rochester) that would allow shoreline communities impacted by high water levels to take legal action against the International Joint Commission.

Onondaga County

Central New York can now get a look at potential plans for a public beach on Onondaga Lake. A $300,000 state-funded feasibility study was released over the weekend. If Onondaga County lawmakers like what they see, swimming could come back to the remediated lake for the first time in 80 years.

County Environmental Director Travis Glazier said the study shows the feasibility of a new beach in the Willow Bay section of the lake that would include a new bathhouse, picnic and play areas and a new pathway and promenade. The whole thing would cost $2.8 million dollars.


Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse is ramping up its emergency protocols, with an eye toward the potential spread of novel coronavirus, which causes a disease called Covid-19. The disease has killed thousands around the world with infections in the U.S. rising.

Upstate's Chief of Infectious Disease Dr. Stephen Thomas says every hospital, including Upstate, already has systems in place to deal with emergencies like the spread of the coronavirus. And as the possibility of an influx of cases increases, Thomas said officials have started fine tuning those protocols.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon and Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh want some areas of city and county government to join forces in 2020. Both leaders think the time is now to successfully launch shared services plans that haven’t worked in the past.

NYS Fair / Flickr

The New York State Fair is doing something you don't see a lot of these days: cutting prices. Starting this year, it will cost $5 to get into the fair, down from the $10 price that's been in place since 2005.

The last time it cost $5 to get into the fair, it was 1990. The big entertainment acts were Michael Bolton and Little Feat. This latest move stabilizes ticket prices that in recent year had become a jumble of pre-sale prices and special dollar days from anyone wearing a college tee-shirt to visitors with a fishing license.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Upstate Medical University in Syracuse is starting a new clinical trial to find out whether a nicotine patch can improve the memory of people diagnosed with the precursor for Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Upstate’s Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease will use the same kind of nicotine patches that help people quit smoking in a study of whether nicotine can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The city of Syracuse is in line for almost a million dollars to help with code enforcement in blighted neighborhoods. New York Attorney General Letitia James brought the news of the $965,000 grant that’s part of the state's RISE program. Communities decide how they want to spend the funds.

Jim Bowen / Flickr

State Sen. Rachel May (D-Syracuse) is urging the public to help the state figure out how to find enough Medicaid savings to get it out of a budget deficit. May said the time is now for people who have a stake in the program to weigh in.

"I think everything is on the table at the moment so it would be great to hear from people who think there is waste in the system or it’s not working," May said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

One central New York prosecutor said something that’s been lost in the debate over new bail reform laws in New York State, is how changes in the discovery rules are impacting district attorneys' offices. A compressed timetable has assistants scrambling to get reports to defense attorneys. 


For the third time in the last three elections, a primary will determine which Democrat faces Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) in the race for central New York’s 24th District seat in November.

Helio Health

A new residential program offering three levels of care for substance abuse has opened up in suburban Onondaga County. It’s the first facility in upstate New York that offers stabilization, rehabilitation and reintegration in one location.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said a facility like Elements of CNY could have helped her nephew, who died of a heroin overdose.

"He overdosed seeking treatment facilities. There weren’t enough beds for him," Hochul said. "I want to be one of the last families to tell that story."

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is launching an attack on 'ghost guns' in Syracuse, because of an increase in the number of these kinds of weapons used in crimes in central New York. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon pronounced the county in good shape Monday in his State of the County address, his first since being elected to the job last year. But along with announcing a wide range of initiatives, he’s also hoping a looming state budget deficit won’t put a drag on the county’s bottom line.

New York is facing a $6 billion deficit, much of it fueled by increasing Medicaid costs. McMahon said he doesn’t want the state to shift some of those costs to local governments.

WRVO News (file photo)

Diversity and inclusion are the focus of a new initiative inside Syracuse City Hall. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The debate over new bail reform measures in New York continues this week, with Onondaga County lawmakers approving a resolution asking for the state to roll back parts of the controversial law, which is only 35 days old.

Before taking a vote, supporters of the reform, which eliminates bail for most misdemeanor and non-violent felonies, marched up to the microphone in the Onondaga County Legislature chambers, urging lawmakers to vote against this resolution.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse common councilors have taken the first step in an ambitious plan to rebuild Syracuse’s housing stock with brand new one and two-family homes on empty lots in the city.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) has some concerns about how long it’s taking the state to get through the process of planning for the Interstate 81 project though Syracuse.

NYS Department of Transportation

The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) is in the midst of a series of public meetings to explain changes that are coming to Onondaga Lake Parkway in the next two years.