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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Jason Smith / WRVO News (file photo)

Early voting begins in New York state this weekend, and while elections officials are prepared, they aren’t sure how many voters will choose to cast a ballot in a relatively new way to vote in New York.

U.S. House of Representatives/Julio Urrutia

The first debate in the race for New York’s 24th Congressional District was held Monday in Syracuse. Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) and Democratic challenger Dana Balter crystalized key campaign points in a debate held by syracuse.com.

photo courtesy of Onondaga County

Getting a flu shot is taking on added urgency during the coronavirus pandemic, especially as the weather gets colder and cases of COVID-19 start to tick upward again.

Onondaga County reported 53 new cases Wednesday. That concerns Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, because many of those cases involve people who have been going to work while sick. He said they’re not doing it intentionally, they just think they have allergies or a cold. So he’s pleading with residents to stay away from work and get tested for COVID-19 before going back.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Mail-in ballots are getting more scrutiny than ever before this year. More people than ever are expected to use the option to cast an absentee ballot by mail so they don’t have to go to potentially crowded polling places during the pandemic, and elections officials and candidates are taking steps to make sure every vote gets counted.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

Italian Americans in Syracuse will gather in Columbus Circle Monday, to pay tribute to the Italian explorer, possibly for the last time. And they're not happy about it.

After years of controversy and discussion, Mayor Ben Walsh made the final decision on the future of the controversial statue last week. The statue will be coming down.

Payne Horning / WRVO Public Media

Syracuse University officials are optimistic they have contained a coronavirus cluster spread during an off-campus party last weekend. Vice Chancellor Mike Haynie said at this point, 65 students have tested positive for coronavirus, and dozens of others are monitoring symptoms in quarantine. 

U.S. House of Representatives/Julio Urrutia

The latest poll looking at the race for central New York's 24th Congressional District race shows Democrat Dana Balter with a slight lead over incumbent Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus). Each candidate sees advantages in the poll, but Katko's support of President Trump is a clear liability.

WRVO News (file photo)

Friday is the deadline for any new voters in New York to register to vote in this year’s election, and Onondaga County reports a surge in new voter registrations.

Much of the uptick according to Onondaga County Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny, is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

Onondaga County officials got some good financial news Monday for the first time in months.  The county's latest sales tax payment is up $10 million over last year. The $37.8 million payment was so high, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said he called state officials asking if it was a mistake.

He said the boost in revenue means the county will not have to lay off or furlough any employees this month.

WRVO News (file photo)

A program to test symptomatic school children in Onondaga County for the coronavirus has been so successful, parents have run into major delays trying to make appointments. But the county hopes streamlining the process and expanding capacity will help.

Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties

The Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties is asking the community for help with its racial equity and social justice initiative. Earlier this summer, the foundation approved a $10 million initiative to invest in programs that fight inequality.

Now, the group is asking residents to take the Mohawk Valley Equity Pledge to build support for programs that create more equity and fairness for everyone in the community.

Decaseconds / Flickr

A series of public hearings has started which will help the New York State Public Service Commission decide whether to grant National Grid a rate increase. 

The company is proposing 4% increases in electric service and 6% increases for gas service to start in July 2021. According to the utility, the rate hikes would allow it to make needed upgrades, modernize infrastructure, and integrate clean power sources into the power grid.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Supporters of a law that would end suspension of driver's licenses because of overdue traffic fines are pushing for action from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Syracuse City School District will open its doors to students and staff next week, to kick off a hybrid model of instruction that mixes remote and in-school learning.  It will be a shift from the total remote learning that’s been going on in recent weeks.

Photo courtesy of Symphoria

Symphoria is starting its 2020-21 season this weekend, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, concerts will be live-streamed, and will look a little different.

Getting several dozen musicians together on a stage is not a simple thing during a pandemic.  Instruments often spew droplets, there’s a lot of hand waving and moving around. So when Symphoria officials decided to move ahead with a season, they had to figure out a way to protect musicians from each other. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The city of Syracuse is getting help from a Pulaski company to keep air clean for some essential city workers.

Once the weather gets colder, DPW employees will crowd into a big meeting room to start the day. To ensure their safety in the era of COVID-19, a brand new air purifier from HealthWay Products in Pulaski will sit in the corner, quietly doing its job, according to company president Vincent Lobdell.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to hit central New York, the CNY Diaper Bank has distributed more diapers to needy families than ever before. 

"Families have lost income, have lost jobs, lost hours. Families are being forced to stay home with children, and they can’t keep up with this ongoing need," said Diaper Bank Executive Director Michela Hugo. "Diapers are really expensive, especially if you can’t buy in bulk."

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

Testing for school staffers and students with symptoms of the coronavirus is ramping up in Onondaga County this week to try to catch the virus before it makes its way into schools. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said Monday about 50 tests were done during the first day of testing at NBT Bank Stadium in Syracuse.

Howie Hawkins 2020 campaign

The Green Party candidate for president won’t be on the ballot in two battleground states, following court rulings last week. It's another example, the Greens say, of the difficulties third party candidates have getting on the ballot.

Democrats have long fought to keep Green Party candidates off the ballot, concerned that liberal voters will support the more progressive party, rather than a mainstream Democrat. They point to election results in 2016, when Green Party candidate Jill Stein pulled in more votes than Democrat Hillary Clinton lost by in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon wants New York State to start including negative results from the thousands of saliva-based coronavirus tests that have been administered in central New York in recent weeks. He said without that, the infection rate for COVID-19 skews higher.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Hemp industry leaders from across New York are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to put out regulations they need in order to operate their business.

Cuomo has already signed the Hemp Extract Bill, which regulates the state’s growing hemp industry. The problem is, the state hasn’t released the hemp extract regulations that provide a framework for hemp growers, processors and retailers. That is leaving them operating under hemp research permits that expire in October.  

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

In the wake of two students testing positive for the coronavirus in two different school districts in Onondaga County, county health officials are developing ways to get quicker information on potential cases.

County Executive Ryan McMahon said it was inevitable that there would be a positive coronavirus test  as children returned to school. But he said Monday the protocol in place handled it well.

We quickly isolated the individual, quickly quarantined. Every case is different with contact tracing, but certainly I think the process worked very, very well," McMahon said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

The coronavirus pandemic is changing how communities mark the annual anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

There won’t be many gatherings to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the attacks, but there will be ceremonies. The Syracuse Police Department will host its annual memorial at Foreman Park, that includes the Fire Department, mayor’s office and the Onondaga County Executive's office. The public is asked to stay away to avoid violating COVID restrictions. 

Interfaith Works CNY

An organization that supports New Americans in Oswego is hoping to get the community talking about Oswego’s history and ties to immigration, and how it’s playing out in 2020.

A virtual community forum Thursday evening will invite new Americans to tell stories about life in refugee and immigrant communities in central New York, as well as look back at Oswego’s history with immigrants and refugees. 

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is hoping to include $25 billion dollars in the next coronavirus relief package to help the struggling U.S. Postal Service. In East Syracuse Monday, Gillibrand said full funding is needed for the Post Office, to keep it operating at full capacity. 

She said she's hopeful Democrats and Republicans can negotiate some kind of agreement on this.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse University is offering special training for teachers in the Syracuse City School District who will engage in online learning this school year. 270 teachers in the district are taking the training, as they get ready to return to a virtual classroom.  

Superintendent Jaime Alicea said the district faces many challenges this year, and is happy to have a partnership that also includes the Allyn Foundation and Blackboard INC.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

Getting children to school safely is one of the more complex issues schools face as they open up in the coming weeks. That means the annual school safety message looks a little different.

Critz Farms

Expect smaller crowds and different layouts at local farms that deal in agritourism this fall. It’s all part of new state guidance geared specifically towards businesses the feature pick-your-own fruit operations, hayrides and corn mazes.

WRVO Public Media

As we head into the final long weekend of summer, the pandemic continues to affect central New Yorker’s travel plans. 

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media

The death of a Rochester man in police custody earlier this year, has put the spotlight on how officers deal with calls that may involve mental health issues. Daniel Prude died a few days after officers put a hood over his head and pressed his head to the pavement, shortly after taking him into custody. He’d been acting erratically and his family says he had mental health issues. Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said how police deal with these kinds of cases is something the city is looking at.