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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Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The initiative to end the AIDS epidemic in New York state by the end of 2020 is making progress. New data shows new HIV diagnoses last year dropped 11%. But while the instance of the disease is trending down, there are still some challenges to reaching that goal in central and northern New York.

The two biggest reasons for a decrease in HIV diagnoses, according to ACR Health Executive Director Wil Murtaugh, is the use of an HIV prevention medication called PrEP, as well as successful medications that reduce the viral load of individuals who are HIV positive.

MemphisCVB / Flickr

On Election Day, voters in the city of Syracuse will decide who will draw the political lines that define Common Council districts in the future. Proposition One, if approved, will take the task out of the hands of politicians.

District lines haven’t changed in Syracuse in two decades, and Common Council President Helen Hudson said things have changed over that 20 years.

"We have districts that have influx of populations. I didn’t know the southside of Syracuse has a big Haitian population," Hudson said. "So we have populations that haven’t been taken into consideration."

Fairfax County / Flickr

Now that summer is over, it doesn’t mean tick season is over. Experts say it’s as important as ever this time of year to guard against the insects that can carry Lyme and other diseases.

Upstate Medical University infectious disease specialist Kristopher Paolino said he remembers jumping in piles of leaves every fall when he was a kid.

WRVO News File Photo

Advocates for local hiring on the Interstate 81 project in Syracuse hope proposed federal legislation will help get more Syracuse residents on job crews.

The Build Local, Hire Local Act would invest in infrastructure projects like the reconstruction of Interstate 81, creating hiring targets, funding training, and giving contract opportunities to minority, women and veteran-owned businesses.

dreamingofariz / Flickr

According to a nationwide study, Syracuse has the highest rate of multiple sclerosis in the country. The study, from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, looked at medical claims from more than 41 million people across the country. In New York State, 31 out of every 10,000 have MS. Nationally, 24 people per  10,000 have MS.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The City of Syracuse is one of the communities across the country grappling with the conflicted history of Christopher Columbus and Columbus Day. More than 100 communities have done away with it, replacing it with Indigenous People’s Day. But a community conversation may point the way toward how to deal with Columbus Day in the future.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

A longtime Republican seat in the State Senate could soon be up for grabs. Bob Antonacci, who won the Syracuse-area seat last year after longtime Republican John DeFrancisco retired, is now running for State Supreme Court Judge in November's election.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has been touring military bases across the state. This week, one of her stops took her to Rome Lab and the Defense Finance and Accounting Services office at the Griffiss Business Park.

Gillibrand said it’s important for her, as one of the senior members of the Senate Armed Services Committee to visit the military offices across the state.  Rome in particular, is an important cog in the nation’s overall security mission.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

Democrats are trying to boost excitement for an off-year election in Onondaga County, and Democratic state representatives in central New York want to see county government turn blue.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County lawmakers are considering a budget that includes spending on a new group home for foster care kids. County Executive Ryan McMahon is proposing the creation of Sycamore House, run in partnership with the Salvation Army.

Colleen / via Flickr

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) is bashing the Trump administration’s education department for not using money Congress appropriated for college loan forgiveness for teachers. He said it’s compounding a teacher shortage that’s only going to get worse. The program would help central New York’s biggest school district.

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In 2018, Americans spent $3.65 trillion on health care. $365 billion of it went for end-of-life care.

Vera House / Facebook

It’s been a decade since the 12 Men Model was developed through Vera House in Syracuse to use men as allies in preventing domestic and sexual violence. An analysis by the Worker Institute at Cornell University shows the program can grow.

The study shows that nearly 90% of the men involved in the program have applied strategies they learned in their own life, and almost half have been able to intervene in a non-aggressive way when they come across abusive language or domestic violence.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

If Syracuse’s Hancock International Airport seems more crowded lately, that's because it is. Airport officials say August was its busiest month in nearly 30 years.

Executive Director Jason Terreri said passenger traffic in Syracuse was up 13% in August compared to last year, with the highest number of passengers in one month since 1990. And Terreri said that statistic isn’t an outlier, with passenger traffic for all of 2019 so far up 12.8% over last year. That followed an 11.6% increase the previous year. 

So what’s happening?

WRVO News File Photo

Most schools in New York should be done making sure students comply with new state laws regarding vaccinations. Children in school now, who had religious exemptions, needed their first dose of vaccinations within the first 14 days of the new school year, and also need to provide proof of follow up vaccines if necessary.

MPW / flickr

Onondaga County is teaming up with the ride-hailing company Lyft to make a dent in one of the most pervasive problems keeping people in poverty in central New York: a lack of transportation to jobs.

At any given time, there are 20 openings at Brophy Services, a commercial building service contractor out of Syracuse. President Eileen Brophy said the first question on an application is often the road block.

Timothy Vollmer / Flickr

State lawmakers lead a hearing in Albany Wednesday that focuses on rural access to broadband, an issue the state has tried to improve.

There has been some progress in connecting some rural areas of upstate New York to broadband. A state initiative invested $50 million in broadband expansion four years ago. And recently, the Federal Communications Commission authorized matching funds for companies to expand broadband access to certain areas.

But state Senator Rachel May (D-Syracuse), who’s leading the hearing, said the additional money hasn't solved all the issues.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A decrease in property taxes and a very slight increase in sewer fees are a prominent part of Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon’s proposed 2020 budget. But the bigger story of this budget may be how the county’s solid financial footing is allowing the McMahon administration to think about tackling some tougher issues.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

Onondaga County’s top Democrat is firing back at the Republican County Comptroller over an investigation into the Democratic elections commissioner's outside income.

Solvejg Wastvedt / WSKG News (file photo)

It was a year ago Onondaga County’s School Safety Task Force issued a set of recommendations meant to help schools stay safe, and the group is still working.

The Syracuse City School District is one district that’s taken the recommendations to heart. Porter Elementary School Principal Jennifer King-Reese said staff and students have embraced the safety training they’ve undergone in the past year.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Communities across central and northern New York took some time Wednesday to remember the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, and the city of Syracuse used silence to take note of the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Advocates are pushing state legislation that would end the suspension of driver’s licenses for people with unpaid traffic tickets.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Onondaga County Comptroller, a Republican who is running for election this year, is accusing the county’s Democratic Elections Commissioner of driving for Uber or Lyft when he should have been in the office.


The Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency is reviewing a proposal that could bring 1,000 jobs to central New York.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Skaneateles Lake Association is continuing a program meant to keep invasive species out of the lake, but they could use some help.

Anyone who launches a watercraft from one of the lake’s three boat launches, could run into Marty Minet or Roy Truswell, volunteer stewards for the Skaneateles Lake Association.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

A message of forgiveness is coming from two victims of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. The two men want to propose an alternative to the anger and bitterness the scandal has wrought.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County’s latest salvo in the war against lead poisoning is a series of town hall events, with at least one meeting geared toward landlords or contractors who deal with older homes.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

School districts in New York have a new tool to catch drivers who pass school buses that are stopped to drop off or pick up kids.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

The New York State Fair in Syracuse continues breaking attendance records. More than 1.3 million people poured into the 13-day fair this year, the most ever.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo made his second stop at the fair this year to announce the news, punctuated by popping balloons and confetti.

Cuomo lauded a fair that’s broken the all-time attendance records four years in a row.

"This year New York became the number three most attended state fair in the United States. We’re not gonna stop until we are number one," Cuomo said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Lovers of trains and transportation have a treat at this year’s New York State Fair. A rare, wooden caboose has been renovated and is available for fairgoers for the first time in 15 years.

This particular reddish brown caboose rode the rails of the New York Central Railroad for 50 years before being decommissioned in the late-1960s, according to the Central New York Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. Volunteer John Lytle said it had some interesting stops after that.