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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Byrne Dairy

Byrne will become the first dairy in central New York to package milk in aseptic packaging.

Upstate New York Poison Center

Since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, calls about hand sanitizer have been increasing at the Upstate New York Poison Center. Those calls have ratcheted up even more in recent weeks because of some dangerous hand sanitizer on the market. 

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

The coronavirus pandemic continues to push Onondaga County government deeper into debt. The county’s most recent sales tax payment was $3.2 million less than the same time a year ago, which puts the county's sales tax hole for the year at nearly $26 million.

Tom / Flickr

Mosquitos have started testing positive for the potentially-deadly Eastern Equine Encephalitis across central New York in recent weeks. Pools of mosquitos have tested positive in Onondaga, Oswego and Madison Counties over the last three weeks or so.

The positive mosquitoes have shown up in wet locales, like the Cicero Swamp and Toad Harbor Swamp. And at least in Onondaga County they come in a year where mosquito numbers are down.


Artists and non-profit arts organizations in central New York are projected to lose $15 million by the end of September because of the coronavirus epidemic. CNY Arts Executive Director Stephen Butler says that figure is the result of a month-long survey of more than 265 artists and organizations.

"With very little opportunity to make money, our industry is severely threatened -- with either permanent closures or having to shut up shop in the foreseeable future -- until they can figure out a way to restart without having very much cash on hand,” Butler said.

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Scientists at SUNY ESF in Syracuse want help from citizens to determine the health of waterways in central New York.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Senate leaders and White House officials continue to negotiate the next coronavirus relief bill, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Schumer is calling on central New Yorkers to lobby for legislation that will include more money for schools.

Standing in front of Cazenovia High School Friday, Schumer said schools need the federal government to come through if they are expected to open up in any way, shape, or form come September. Cazenovia School District Superintendent Matt Reilly agreed, putting the cost of COVID at hundreds of thousands of dollars for his small district.

WRVO News (file photo)

State officials will spend this week reviewing school district plans for reopening this fall in the midst of a global pandemic. Most school districts in central New York have decided on a hybrid model that alternates in-person and remote learning.

Novartis AG / Flickr

Central New Yorkers could be among the thousands of individuals who will be part of a clinical trial for a potential vaccine against COVID-19. There are currently two studies underway as scientists across the world look for a vaccine that could slow the progress of the coronavirus pandemic.

Upstate Medical University in Syracuse is taking part in one clinical trial spearheaded jointly by drugmaker Pfizer and a German biotech company. Upstate’s Infectious Disease Chief Dr. Stephen Thomas said this is a late-stage human trial that will ultimately include up to 30,000 participants.


The coronavirus pandemic couldn’t have come at a worse time for those involved in the 2020 Census. The pandemic wreaked havoc on plans for the every-ten-year population count.

WRVO News File Photo

Hospitals are getting better at treating the sickest COVID-19 patients, according to one central New York coronavirus expert. Dr. Stephen Thomas, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, said treatment for patients has gone through some changes over the last several months.

"The idea of 'when do you intubate people, do they get steroids, do they need antibiotics immediately or do they not, do they need to get anticoagulated'," Thomas said. "These sorts of things we’ve learned as we’ve gone along."

Kathy Hochul / Twitter

State and federal officials are continuing to lobby for more money for child care in the federal COVID relief bill being negotiated in Congress. During a stop in Syracuse Friday, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said funding for child care is needed now more than ever.

upupa4me / Flickr

Pediatricians across central New York are fighting to survive as the coronavirus pandemic has created a financially untenable situation for many.

East Syracuse pediatrician Dr. Vito Losito says it’s plain and simple, the infrastructure for pediatric care is crumbling.

"I want the government to know, I want the insurance companies to know, I want the public to know that the pediatric infrastructure, the people who care for your children are struggling to stay afloat, stay available, and we need help." Losito said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

There has been the usual partisan bickering in Washington this week, as Congress started negotiations on the next coronavirus relief bill that needs to be passed before the end of the month. As Democratic and Republican leadership debate what it should include, and how much it will cost, two local congressmen are hopeful a bipartisan deal can be struck.


Testing for COVID-19 has become a challenge across the country, and central New York hasn’t been spared. It’s currently taking up to 10 or 11 days to get test results because national labs have been inundated with tests.

Dr. Robert Corona, CEO of Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, is calling the testing shortage a perfect storm. He said it’s gotten to the point where some local nursing homes have lost contracts with big testing companies. And the long wait times for results makes testing less useful.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

Syracuse officials and police reform activists are still not on the same page when it comes to ways to reform the city's police department. The city released a response to the People’s Agenda for Policing's nine demands Thursday. The group, which is pushing for an overhaul of the police department, isn't happy with the response.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Supporters of the statue of Christopher Columbus in downtown Syracuse are starting a petition drive to let city officials know they’re not happy with the possibility of tearing the statue down. 

Dozens of Italian Americans rallied Thursday in the shadow of the controversial statue. Carrying Italian flags and signs, they say they won’t be quiet anymore about a drive to bring the statue down.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

If you want a choice in the race for president this fall besides Donald Trump or Joe Biden, Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins says he’s your candidate. The former UPS driver from Syracuse has officially won the Green Party’s nomination for president.

Hawkins told Green Party delegates Saturday during the party's virtual convention that his candidacy offers a choice beyond the two major party nominees, especially for progressive supporters of Bernie Sanders, who might otherwise vote for Democrat Joe Biden.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Researchers at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse may be able to provide colleges and universities a way to track the coronavirus in students who will be returning to campus next month.

Upstate's Dr. Frank Middleton has led research into pool testing, which allows 25 individuals to be tested at a time, using saliva instead of swabs.

"We showed that we could take it from 25 people, combine it into one big mega sample and we could process that mega sample and not lose any sensitivity, even if only one person out of that 25 is positive," Middleton said.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Social isolation during the pandemic has made matters worse for some people suffering from substance use disorder, according to a Cayuga County research study trying to reduce opioid deaths. It’s forced the HEALing Communities Research Study to find different ways to reach out, especially when it comes to distributing Narcan, which can stop an overdose. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) wants to make sure two central New York hospitals get a fair share of federal emergency funding earmarked for health providers facing fiscal uncertainty because of the coronavirus.

City of Syracuse / YouTube

Several police reform proposals are now in the hands of the city of Syracuse, after a tense, four-hour meeting Thursday, in which the People’s Agenda for Police Reform made their complaints clear.

The People’s Agenda include eight main concerns, and none of them are new. They include taking police and school resource officers out of schools, improving police accountability, cutting the police budget, and creating a new use of force policy.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is rallying local governments in New York to push for legislation that would offer federal funds to hard hit localities facing big budget gaps caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The city of Syracuse and Onondaga County are among governments lobbying for the aid. Syracuse is facing an up to $10 million budget deficit. Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens said if the city does not see relief by August, officials are looking at major personnel and service reductions.

timheuer / Flickr

This is a summer travel season like no other. The coronavirus has changed the way people are traveling this year, but people are still taking trips.

There’s a kind of Jekyll and Hyde aspect when it comes to planning a trip this summer, according to AAA of Western and Central New York. There is pent up demand for travel, but people are worried according to Dan Fisher of Triple-A.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

Onondaga County officials are urging people to buy local this summer, saying local farmers need help more now than ever, as businesses start to reopen from the coronavirus pandemic.

Christina Hudson Kohler is a fourth generation egg farmer in Onondaga County. The farm lost half of its business when food service shut down. And while they are moving into recovery mode, more issues keep popping up. Right now, the problem is a shortage of egg cartons.

WRVO News (file photo)

Onondaga County reported an increase Monday in sales tax received over last year. But county officials say while it's welcome news, it won't solve the county's budget problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The county received a $17.2 million sales tax payment that County Executive Ryan McMahon called "curious, but encouraging." It was up nearly $7 million from the same time last year. 

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

There will be swimming at some municipal pools in the city of Syracuse this summer, but it won’t however look like summers' past.

The city of Syracuse generally opens up eight pools every summer.  But the city can’t afford to do that this year because of a multi-million dollar budget gap caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Mayor Ben Walsh said he had to take that into account as he made a decision to open two pools.

Resilient Indigenous Action Collective / Facebook

The discussion over whether to remove a statue of Christopher Columbus in downtown Syracuse reached a fever pitch Saturday, as protesters gathered in Columbus Circle calling for the statue to come down. But Mayor Ben Walsh wouldn't commit to removing the statue right away.

Onondaga Community College / Facebook

Onondaga Community College is ready for a fall semester that starts August 31 and combines the world of virtual education with in-person classes. OCC submitted a plan to SUNY that makes several changes to ensure the safety of everyone on campus this fall. It includes some classes that are a combination of in-person and remote learning.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

Upstate Medical University in Syracuse is launching a study to figure out how COVID-19 is transmitted within families.

There are a lot of questions about the coronavirus and COVID-19 that haven’t been answered that revolve around how the virus is transmitted and what kind of immunity a positive test provides.